“Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand.”
- Wes Westrum
On Thursday I was called to sub at my former school for the second day in a row. But instead of having my beloved sixth-graders, this time I’d sub kindergarten. (This wasn’t the kindergarten class that had the boy every teacher feared would “blow up”.) When I arrived, the assistant said she planned to sub the class. She didn’t want an assistant because she wouldn’t get the extra sub money on top of her salary. Not only that, she said there wasn’t supposed to be a sub. Fabulous.
I went to the office, called the sub line and left a message, waited for a call back, got a call back and was told, “she called in sick but didn’t say she had the assistant subbing the class”, and was then offered a job to sub gym at the school where the Jerry Springer incident occurred the week before, so I took it, ran home and changed, and rushed to the school just before the bell rang. ...Breathe out.
The sub job was fine except for one preschool class where boys behaved much like Damian from the Omen. NOT an exaggeration. If they’d been left unsupervised, I’m sure children would have died.
That night we had tickets to the Red Sox game. Once a year, the assistant principal at my children’s school gets a block of tickets in the bleachers for us to buy. It’s a lot of fun for the kids, who don’t care much about the game, but often socialize with their friends and beg for food that all the vendors carry up and down the steps. “Get your hotdogs heya!”
While most of our seats were in a block, in front of us sat two men who were NOT from the school. Here and there I heard them speak in what I thought were Eastern European accents. Atop their heads were two brand new Red Sox baseball caps. At some point, the man on the right turned around and asked my husband the score. Then he said it was his first Red Sox game.
As the game progressed, so did their drinking and chattiness. The man on the left seemed less confident speaking English and increasingly embarrassed by his friend’s rowdiness. The man of the right loved chanting, “Let’s go Red Sox; let’s go!” so much that he’d stand and command our bleacher neighbors to join in. Because it was also game seven of the Lakers vs. Celtics, he also tried to get a round going of, “Beat LA!” (Sadly, we didn’t beat LA.)
But some chants were lost in translation. When Kevin Youkilis went up to bat, the crowd yelled its ususal, “YOOOOOUUUUUUK.” The men in front of us began to shout, “Boo!” and put their thumbs down. I tapped the man on the right, explaining, “It’s You, for Youkilis,” pointing to the sign with his name on it. Shrugging with an embarassed smile, he then pulled a pint-sized t-shirt with the player’s name on it and declared, “For my son.”
From then on we were buddies. The man on the right always liked the Celtics because they wear green, just like his soccer team.He told us that he and his best friend were from the Czech Republic. His friend was visiting his sister in Chelsea, and took him along. They spent two days in New York, but liked Boston better because it looked like Eastern European cities. He lived in Prague and owned a pub. We were invited to visit anytime for cheap food and drink, and he’d show us the city.
We told him about our wedding in Serbia, further bonding us. And we answered any questions he had about America, sports, and Boston.
He went for a beer run, turning to my husband and I, asking, “Do you want a beer?” We both declined. A few minutes later, he returned with two beers, declaring, “One man. Only two beers.” Then he handed my husband and his friend one. Refusing to take money, he took off again. A few minutes later he again returned with two beers and said the same line, handing me a beer and keeping one for himself. I hate beer. So I’d drink a little, my husband would drink faster, and then we’d switch, until both beers were gone.
At some point, my daughter needed to pee and procure a drink (which would cause a future bathroom break, I was sure) so we asked the men if they wanted beer. They said they would buy, but we insisted. After finding a restroom, and buying water and three beers (since I didn’t want one), we returned to find they’d bought four beers in our absence so now we had SEVEN beers.
This was déjà vu all over again. When my husband and I visited Serbia about three years ago, my we were jetlagged, without luggage, and in a country very different from our own. That night, still without a change of clothing and few toiletries, we attended the rehearsal dinner at my husband’s best friend’s fiancée’s parents’ home. All night, the mother and father kept bringing us clothes and shoes in case our luggage didn’t arrive on the next day’s flight. And the father kept giving us shots of some really, really strong stuff that tasted like grappa. Not wanting to be rude, I took the first. After that, I declined. The father, who didn’t speak English, pretended he didn’t understand, “No.” He’d smile and pour more. At first, I’d give it to my husband, but concerned he’d get alcohol poisoning, I resorted to pouring the shots in large potted plant. Sorry plant.
The night became more surreal as it went on (and not from me, since I hardly touched my beer), but from my husband (who may or may not have hidden beers under his seat) and the two men, who had many cups of beer to finish. After the seventh inning, the man wanted going to buy ANOTHER round, but I told him the bar closed after the seventh inning. This news was as shocking to him as when he asked where he could smoke a cigarette, and I explained he’d have to leave the stadium.
They thoroughly enjoyed singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Sweet Caroline”. I pointed to the screen so they’d know the lyrics. The man on the right was waaaay into the wave, even standing to let our area know when it was coming (as if we couldn’t see it). And when music came on after a great play, he’d dance along. (I tried to get a picture of this but my camera ran out of batteries.)
In the eighth inning, my husband bet the men $1 over what the final score would be. Probably because they’d had so much to drink, they kept to double-checking which score they picked. My husband lost his dollar when the Sox won against Arizona 8-5. After many high-fives, handshakes, and promises to see one another in Prague, we parted ways.
“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game.”
- Walt Whitman