Sunday, April 25, 2010

Baseball Watching

“Sweet Caroline

Good times never seemed so good.

I've been inclined

to believe they never would.”

- Song “Sweet Caroline” Neil Diamond (Sung by fans at every Red Sox game at Fenway)

Before moving to Boston, I’d only attended two baseball games in my life. As a child, I lived five minutes from Shea Stadium. My uncle promised to take me, but never did. I recall asking my parents when he’d bring me, but they always said they didn’t know. Looking back, I wonder why they didn’t bother bringing me instead. How much were the tickets, $5?

The first baseball game was finally at Shea Stadium when my husband’s relatives from Brazil visited. Their trip made me do all sort of tourist-type things I never bothered to do as a New Yorker, besides watching a baseball game. Like enduring the musical “Les Miserables” (which made such an impression on my husband that years later, he asked if it had been in English or French). We also visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island.

Then when I worked at the insurance company, I got an opportunity to see a game at Yankee Stadium. My conclusion? Baseball games are boring.

When I moved to Cambridge in 2001, I couldn’t help but notice that people around here are a little obsessed with baseball. When it looked like it could be The Red Sox’s year in 2004, the whole city was alive with anticipation, and my husband and I couldn’t help get caught up in it. I began to watch baseball games on TV, finding that if I did something else during the slow parts of games (read, watch TV), it wasn’t too bad.

Then my son started kindergarten, and his assistant principal reserved a block of seats at Fenway for the school each year, so we started attending games. Whoever designed Fenway was (fill in the negative blank here). If you sit in most of the seats, the sun is in your eyes from 1pm until sunset. Now I know why baseball hats are designed to shield our eyes. Why on earth didn’t the designers notice that? Still, the stadium has its charm, and I’d protest with anyone else if they tried to move it or (gasp) change Fenway to a brand name.

My husband and I go to games more often because someone at his job has season tickets she likes to unload. Her seats are often obstructed, so all I see are people entering the stadium or climbing the steps when I’m trying to see the pitcher and batter. Added to this view are the people who want their picture taken by the guard with the foul line pole in the background and the vendors wearing bright yellow, yelling, “Get you soda He-ah! Hotdogs! Clam chowda!”

The games are often not very exciting, except for an occasional homerun or some good play or if the score is close near the end. For some reason, every time we attend a game, our neighbors provide as much, if not more entertainment.

Last season, we were next to a couple that each drank a beer an inning. So they didn’t have to make as many trips, they’d buy two at a time, having one cup in their hands and a replacement at their feet. By the fourth inning, I was impressed at how normal they seemed after at least four drinks. (Since I don’t know if they drank anything before they got to Fenway.) By the fifth beer, their eyes glazed over and I don’t think they watched any more of the game. The bar closes at the seventh-inning, so when they finished their last beers by the eighth-inning, they left. Mission accomplished?

On Friday, my husband I attended the first game of the season and our neighbors again did not disappoint. Around the third inning, my husband and I had left to get food. When we returned, a different couple than the last time had filled the empty seats next to us. They had a blanket across their laps and when we walked past them, they wouldn’t stand. Isn’t it just good manners to stand and make room to pass? I always do it and so does everyone else I’ve ever passed. As a result of the narrow space, I clocked a woman in the aisle in front of us in the head with my handbag. Sorry.

The woman wore eyeliner around her eyes that reminded me of that horrid look in the 1980s or heroin chic. I couldn’t rule out drugs in this case because they periodically left, returning smelling like cigarettes. Then the guy fell asleep. After a cheer, he woke up. Later, his girlfriend took a nap as well. When they weren’t sleeping, they were texting. They left in the seventh-inning. ????????

In the front row, a drunken guy was trying to get to his seat and spilled beer on an older woman’s shoulder. I only know this because he boisterously apologized. A couple of times, he stood on his chair and demanded that we all cheer, but nobody paid much attention. At some point during the game, the large flat screen TV announced to text if you were having a problem with a “fan”. I guess someone had a problem with this fan and his friend because at some point, security guards came to escort the drunkards out of the park. Drunken man put his hands up and got cheers from our section, while he was manhandled towards the exit.

Then there was a sweet older woman in front of us, whom I can only assume was a tourist, excited to be at her first game. Every time a foul ball fell into the seats, she’d state the obvious. “Look, it’s a foul ball. Isn’t that something?”

The big foul section was to the left of us, so every time a ball headed in that direction, some young men would stand and wave their arms, hoping to get on camera. Why they’d need that “glory” is anyone’s guess.

Oh, and David Ortiz got a home run and the end of the game was exciting. They won 3-2.


  1. Well it's just not cricket, is it really?


    It always beggars my imagination when people pay to watch a game or a play or a film and end up either talking all the way through, sleeping, doing other things but watch what they pay for... incredible!

    I have absolutely no experience of watching a live sports game! My brother who is a mad Spurs fan attends as many games as he could but the horror stories he comes out with are enough to make me choose my sofa in the comfort of my home.


    Oh and I saw Les Miserables with my friend and we both tried very hard not to laugh when during the battle scenes stuffed dummies were being flung about on the stage.

    We liked the songs tho!

    Take care

  2. Old Kitty, I don't know much about cricket except those couple of scenes in "Bend it Like Bekham" and the Alice in Wonderland Disney film. Those were both cricket, right?

    I agree about not understanding people who go, but don't watch. We were in the cheaper seats, but they're not that cheap.

    I've heard many horror stories about what happens during and after live games in Europe and South America.

    Personally, I'm not a big fan of musicals, especially singing battle scenes.

  3. Oh gosh, I love baseball! My best memories growing up involve my friend and I taking the train from the northern Chicago suburbs, to Wrigley Field. It wasn't a direct route, we had to get off about five miles away, and then take a bus the rest of the way. I think we were about 14 or 15? Lol. I don't think I'd let my daughter do that even though I don't think it's was any safer back then. Heck, it was probably worse because the Cubs weren't the hip thing back then. The area around the field was a bit more suspect.

    Anyway, my dh and I met due to baseball, and we're both huge Cub fans. Wrigley Field even plays a role in my novel. hehe.

  4. Mary, thanks for sharing your game story. It reminds me of all the time I spent in Washington Square Park, Times Square, and Penn Station as a teenager. The last two were much seedier back then.

    That's cool that you met your husband due to your love of baseball.

    I mention baseball and basketball in my manuscript, Aura because the novel takes place in New York City.

  5. I am a huge Red Sox fan. I loved the retelling of your experience! :) There's something so contagious about the enthusiasm that comes each baseball season, although some people can and do take it overboard.

  6. I don't believe I've ever seen a baseball game live. I must admit I'm not the biggest fan of baseball players and their gum-chewing ways.

    And what's wrong with black kohl-lined eyes, circa 1980s? In fact, I have some on right now. Must go reapply! :)

  7. Cricket is the baseball equivalent over here - over and above it being our national hit-a-ball-with-a-stick game, it has the same overtones of sport-for-number-crunchers, and the poosibility of tremendous emotional experiences taking place for those who understand it while the uninitiated look on and go 'What?'

    I'm pretty sure cricket is also the only English sport with its own ghost poetry:

  8. Two friends and I ended up in Boston for a weekend and went to watch a game at Fenway. It is without a doubt the best ballpark I ever experienced.

  9. Julie, while I love basketball best, the fans a round here make baseball fun.

    Talli, I don't mind the gum chewing, it's the spitting I can't stand. And the Red Sox coach is the worst spitting offender.

    Hampshireflyer, I confess that I don't understand cricket either. I'll check out the ghost poetry link.

    Liberty, Fenway is my favorite park of the three I've been to.

  10. Part of the journey to enjoying a sport is the environment that surrounds the passion. How can you help not to caught-up in the fun.
    Living in the south, college football is what rocks. Living in a University city, it is almost impossible not to become an avid fan.

    I enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  11. Wait a minute. Are you saying that you are a New Yorker who has switched camps to being a Red Sox fan? Theresa, Theresa, no, say it ain't so! (Yankees fan here ;)

  12. Love the fact that you watch the people around you just as much as the game! The beer drinkers must have been fascinating!

  13. Velva, we have college ball here, but I haven't gone to any games. Normally, I don't watch football except for the Super Bowl, but after recently watching "The Blind Side" and "Remember the Titans", it's growing on me.

    Joanne, I know, I know. I tell everyone that I didn't watch it in NY, so it wasn't hard to switch allegiances. But I can't really explain the basketball one, and I still have a soft spot for the Knicks.

    I would've been a Mets fan anyway.

    Bossy Betty, the drinkers do make the time go faster.

  14. I love baseball. When I lived in New York, I went to lots of games at Shea Stadium. I was such a fan of the Mets. I knew ever player on the team. It is so much fun to see sports live! Love those ballpark franks!

  15. Choices, it's too bad Shea Stadium has been moved and renamed. I had chicken and fries on Friday.

  16. I've gone to one Red Sox game my whole life, and I was soooo bored. I'm not into all the rules and there's a lot of waiting around with baseball. But my sister and dad love it, so I hope they win for their sake.

    The people that go are a strange bunch! Great observations! I enjoyed reading them.

  17. Aubrie, there is a lot of waiting around. Near the end, the Orioles called a whole bunch of time-outs. It was cold and dragged on and on.

  18. Baseball is the most boring game to watch!! You have an award on my blog:)

  19. Karen, if you don't get into the strategy and tension of it, baseball is boring. I have to multitask when I'm at home or I get bored.

    Thanks for the award!

  20. Lovely observations ,Theresa, had me smiling.
    We have huge national sports, Gaelic football and Hurling (the real one, not the nightclub version) and they are massively popular here. Soccer is v popular too, but my personal fav is basketball having played it for years.

  21. Brigid, after your reading your post, I'll definitely avoid the nightclub version of hurling. Basketball is my favorite to watch too, but I had no talent to play.

  22. Excellent game story, I must say I don't have quite the experiences you do, then again I grew up in Des Moines, IA and the stadium we had wasn't for the major leagues it was the minors, we still enjoyed ourselves but there was no such thing as a bad seat.

    I plan to go see the Astros now that I live in Houston, but I've always loved a baseball game, it probably stems back to when I used to go with my dad every year! Great childhood memories!

  23. Yes, there is a lot of time to study human nature during a game. People with season's tickets get to know their neighbours very well. I am surprised how some can be so insensitive; yet, others practice a very healthy spirit at games.

  24. Jen, I'm always a little envious when people tell me they followed baseball as a kid. It seems so much a part of the American fabric.

    I've never been to a minor game, but my nephews see The Ducks in New York sometimes.

    Paul C, people at a stadium are like a mix of people in real life, but with more beer consumption.

  25. Games always are this way. Its really hard to find normal people... LOL
    As for getting on Camera, I tried coming on it lots of times. But, when I did I was wearing plastic horns. Boo hoo!
    Anyways, loved your post. I am your newest follower...:)

    Have a great day!

  26. Mr. Stupid, thanks for becoming a follower.

    I think I saw you with the plastic horns!

  27. I love that song and LOVE Boston! We're in L.A. so we're Angles fans. =)

  28. T. Anne, it's fun to sing the song. I wonder if sing it in every stadium or just Fenway?

  29. Baseball is very near and dear to me as my son played it for several years as a child. He then had a horrible, mean, rotten coach at age 12 who scarred him so badly that I never saw my son in a baseball uniform again...he never played again after that. We'll leave that for another blog post....

    Anyway, he did go on to work at our local minor league ballpark and is now finishing up his freshman year at Gonzaga University. The best thing about baseball? We watch it together. Whether we are watching the Spokane Indians in person, the Seattle Mariners on TV or in person, my son and I have a shared love of the game that I hope we continue forever.

  30. Michaele, thanks for the comment. It's a shame about your son's coach. It's amazing how one coach or teacher can ruin something for a child.

    It's nice that baseball bring you close together. Every parent and child should have something special to share.

  31. Hee, I missed this somehow. It's nice that there were always fans like that - even though I do remember days (late 80's and thru the 90's) when more people claimed to be Red Sox fans then actually attended the games. :)

    But at least they claimed to be Red Sox fans.

    I grew up watching Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings games. I was too young to remember seeing the Tigers in the playoffs. Same thing with the Red Wings.

    I still proudly called myself a fan and didn't get other Michiganders who went around wearing stuff for other teams (this was back when everyone was going through an Atlanta Braves phase and then Cleveland Indians). Then also there were always people who said they were Yankees fans - even if they had never been to NY. They just said they were because it was 'in' and 'cool'.

    When the Tigers went to the World Series a couple years ago, suddenly everyone started babbling about how they had always been Tiger fans, blahblahblah. Funny. I don't actually remember them supporting their team or talking baseball back then. :[

  32. Catherine, fandom is complicated. I guess it's more fun to go to and watch games on TV when your team is winning. But it's probably more fulfilling to watch a team for years and finally get that win. Or hope for next year.