My son had baseball practice yesterday. Tuesdays are days when he’s scheduled to be at his mom’s, so I don’t usually plan to hear from him or his sister on those days. However, late in the afternoon, I get an unexpected phone call: “Dad? Can you come pick me up from baseball practice?” I have two choices: say no, it’s your mother’s problem, pick him up anyway and register a complaint with the former wife; or I can just say “Of course,” which is what I did.
Since I get to be the hero of my own stories every once in while, I will add that if the shoe were on the other foot, I’d hear no end of the recriminations for having neglected my parental duties without so much as a text message. I try not to think about that, to shove these thoughts out of my mind. The former is never going to change, and if the past 5 years are any proof (as if I needed some), the bitterness and the recriminations will not stop until the kids are out of college. Even then, I’ll probably get the occasional text starting Hey Asshole, because yes, the mother of my children has no problem addressing me like that.
But I’m not playing those games. I get the call, I go. I’m glad he’s called me. Thrilled. Another chance to see one of my children when it wasn’t expected.
He gets in the car, and I ask, What’s the best way to celebrate the return of warm weather? I know he knows the answer: ice cream, of course.
Off we go. We make our way through the horrible early evening traffic that this suburb has.(Framingham! All the inconveniences of a city with none of the benefits!) I’m not in a hurry, though. I’m glad just to be passing the time with my son. In two years, he’ll be gone, off to college, off to wherever, and then three more years until the daughter leaves.
We go get the ice cream. I order a small, he orders a medium. We get cones, because even though it’s hot outside, we’re willing to risk the melting for the added pleasure of having the cone. They give me a safety cone, which is not what I wanted, but I don’t care. My small comes, and it looks like two scoops. Two big scoops.
I’ll eat the whole thing anyway. We sit down on the steps outside, and start talking. We’ll mostly talk about baseball, or whatever. I had pretty much given up on baseball after the strike of 1994, but having a son changed all of that. My son’s not the kind of teenager who will talk about himself. He doesn’t like reading (though when he was little I read him chapter books, and he couldn’t wait for the next night’s story), so we can’t talk about books. He might ask for an update on the current turmoil, but that’s pretty rare. But baseball is good enough. We find things to agree and disagree on, and there are still a few–very few–things I know that he doesn’t (like what it is to have your town’s team lose for decades on end).
So here I am, enjoying an unexpected half-hour with my son, eating an unexpected ice cream cone on the first nice, summery day in what seems a long time. He’ll have to go back to his mom’s, but we’re not rushing. We eat the cones and then continue to just sit. I could be in Peru, or Italy, or who knows where else, but I’m in Framingham, and at least for the moment, it’s just fine.
I imagine that your mind is probably shattering at the moment, too. There are too many mental balls to juggle, and they are flying all over the place and getting dropped. Some of them have explosives in them, others are just paint balls, and others are just trite metaphors getting overworked on an unread blog.
That can only mean one thing: It’s time for our weekly break!
I’ll leave you with this thought: It’s my former wife’s weekend with the kids. They don’t hang out with me, y’know, being teenagers and all, but that sensation when I get back from dropping them at school, their presence still palpable (the humidity upstairs from the shower, the smell of whatever it is that my daughter put in her hair, the mug that I used to heat the milk for the hot chocolate my son drinks in the car), it is overwhelming and poignant, it fades all too fast.
And in other good news, it’s baseball season!!
OR: Make yourself the frosty one while the 35 mph wind circles around the stands. The editorial staff of the Meta-Bug recommends watching it on TV.
Truth be told, we recommend that you sell your season tickets, don’t go to individual games, and watch at a local bar. Fuck MLB and the owners. We love baseball, but they are playing you for suckers.
ONE COULD MAKE THE ARGUMENT THAT WRIGLEY CEASED TO BE WRIGLEY when the Tribune Corporation bought the Cubs, or when they in turn sold it to Sam Zell, or certainly when Zell sold it to the Ricketts family. Baseball ain’t what it used to be, and however quaint we try to make it in our minds, Wrigley is basically just an ivy-covered dump. True, it’s a really nice ivy-covered dump, but a dump is still a dump, and after one has made a trip to Camden Yards or AT&T field, it is apparent that charm only goes so far, and that good sight lines and comfortable seats might, in the course of 81 games, be even more important.
Wrigley Field was cool, but that ended with lights in 1988. Baseball played at night is just another reason that some think it’s declining. Time was when everyone watched the World Series and didn’t quit watching when the hometown bombed out (which was every year in Chicago). But a weekday game in the sunshine–that’s an excuse to turn on the TV at work or just light out and play hooky.
Wrigley Field was really cool when they had to share the field with the Bears. On a rainy Sunday the football players would get covered in mud as they made runs up the middle through the grassless baselines infield. It was cool to walk to Wrigley Field from my grandmother’s home on Cornelia and the lake (they lived previously lived at Pine Grove and Addison, but then they moved up in the world), past LeMoyne Elementary where my dad went, by that time covered with Latin Kings graffiti, showing that the old neighborhood wasn’t what it once was. My dad, though only in his early 30s, had season tickets–they weren’t so expensive then–and they were almost the worst seats in the house. We sat a row or two from the very top at the south end zone. The vortex of lake winds formed by the bowl of the stadium had us huddling under blankets, thermoses in hand.The season highlight, the Bear-Packer game, was in December every year. I froze my ass off and loved every minute of it.
Season tickets? Unless it’s a St. Louis game, where busloads of Missourians (and Southern Illinoisans) come to gloat (do they ever get tired of it?) at the misery that is Cubs baseball, tickets can generally be had out front at less than face value, especially at the beginning of the season, when the weather is more suited to Bear-Packer games or outdoor hockey, or at the end of the season, when even the faithful realize that rare Chicago days of warmth and sunshine can be enjoyed with beers that cost less than $8.50.
A sign of the times is that the Cubs organization was actively recruiting season ticket holders. I was called on the phone multiple times by a salesman attempting to get me to buy in by relying on my out-of-date feelings about the game. I got on the waiting list for season tickets, probably around 5 years ago. I was sort of interested until I realized that it would set me back at least several thousand dollars to get middling seats. I’d never be able to break even, unless of course the Messiah came and the Cubs made it above 85 wins (well, it has happened around 35 time–since 1874). Attendance at Wrigley has been falling for 6 years, even as the seating expands. I confess to having fantasies about selling the tickets a profit to benefit the nonprofit (PAZ), and then being first in line for NLCS tickets (the World Series is too much to hope for). I am not in a position in life to indulge fantasies at the cost of several thousand dollars. Leave that to the corporati in their luxury boxes, or those who believe that a trip to the ball park with the family should cost as much as a weekend vacation.
FENWAY AND THE RED SOX END THEIR SELL-OUT STREAK
Oh, how the proud have been humbled and made to lick the dust that covers home plate! They shall sit in stadia not full, cover themselves with greasy ashes from the grilling of sausages, and drink their overpriced yet watered down intoxicants in the loneliness and solitude! The millionaires of summer will cry out in the wilderness, yet no one will be there to offer succor.
Let’s face it: There’s more than a little amount of schadenfreude going around today. The Red Sox and their overpriced, crumbling venue has finally reached a point where the fans have said “Enough!”. A king’s ransom to take to the family to the ball park, plus $8.50 for Bud Light (Bud Light, mind you) can’t go on forevah. The owners thought it could, but let’s hope that this year more people will decide to go watch local Little League games instead, no matter how good this season’s crop of mercenaries plays “for the fans.”
Then again, they may show up in droves tomorrow.
Why is it that our main displays of patriotism take place at sporting events? Conflating the two seems to degrade both sport and love of country.
From one of my favorite Mike Royko columns:
Both teams were on the field. The crowd stood for the singing of the National Anthem.
Everybody except one man. He just sat and studied his program. The band began playing.
The singing was led by a TV star who had been up all night drinking gin. Ten jets swooped
over the stadium. Fifty majorettes thrust out their chests. The one man stayed in his seat
and looked at his program. Somebody gave him a nudge. He ignored it.
“Stand up,” somebody else hissed.
“I’ll stand for the kickoff,” the man said.
Another man glared at him. “Why don’t you stand and sing?”
“I don’t believe in it,” he said.
The other man gasped. “You don’t believe in the National Anthem?”
“I don’t believe in singing it at commercial events. I wouldn’t sing it in a nightclub, or
in a gambling casino, and I won’t sing it at a football game.”
A man behind him said: “What are you, a damn radical?”
He shook his head. “I’m not a stadium patriot.”
“I’ll make you stand up,” a husky man said, seizing his fleece collar.
They scuffled and struck each other with their programs. Somebody dropped a hip flask.
“What’s wrong?” people shouted from a few rows away.
“A radical insulted the anthem,” someone yelled.
“I did not,” the man yelled. “I won’t be a stadium patriot.”
“He says he’s not a patriot,” somebody else roared, swinging a punch.
A policeman pushed through. “What’s going on here? Break it up.”
People yelled: “He insulted the flag . . . He refused to stand. . . . He’s a radical . . . Sit
down—I can’t see the girls . . .”
The policeman said: “Why wouldn’t you stand?”
“Not at a football game,” the man said.
“Hear that?” someone yelled, shaking a fist.
“Let’s go fella,” the policeman said, leading him away.
He was fined $25 for disorderly conduct, and the judge lectured him on his duties as a citizen.
The next week he had a seat at the Stupendous Bowl game. Both teams took the field and the
crowd rose for the National Anthem. They were led in song by a country music star, who had been
up all night playing dice. A dozen jet bombers flew over. Sixty majorettes thrust out their chests.
This time the man rose with everyone else, and he sang. He sang as loud as he could, in an ear-splitting
voice that could be heard twenty rows in any direction. A few people turned and looked at him as if
he were odd. When the song reached the “land of the free” his voice cracked, but he shrieked out the
high note. Then it was over, everyone applauded, yelled “Kill ’em,” and “Murder ’em,” and “Belt ’em,” and sat down to await the opening kickoff. Everyone but the one man. He remained on his feet and began slowly singing the second stanza in his loud voice. People stared at him. But then they jumped up and cheered as the ball was kicked off and run back. When they sat down, the man was still standing, singing. He paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and started the third stanza.
“Hey, that’s enough,” someone yelled.
“Yeah, sit down. I can’t see through you,” said somebody else.
He kept on singing. People called out:
“Knock it off.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“I can’t see.”
The game was under way. Three plays were run while he sang the third verse. Everyone jumped
up for the punt return. When they sat down, the man was still singing. Everyone around him was becoming upset. People stood and shook their fists. Somebody threw a hot-dog wrapper. An usher asked him to take his seat. He shook his head and began the fourth stanza as a touchdown was scored. The people behind him were outraged. “I couldn’t see that because of you . . . Make him sit down . . . He must be crazy . . . He’s a radical . . .” He went on singing. Somebody grabbed his shoulders and tried to push him into his seat. They cuffled and swung their programs. Somebody dropped a hip flask. The man struggled to his feet, still howling the fourth stanza.
A policeman pushed through. “What’s going on? Break it up.”
“He won’t sit down,” someone yelled. “He won’t stop singing,” someone else said. “He’s trying to start a riot. He’s a radical.”
“Let’s go fella,” the policeman said, leading him away as he finished the final stanza, holding the note as long as he could.
The judge fined him $25 for disorderly conduct, and warned him about not shouting fire in a crowded theater.
The next week he went to the Amazing Bowl. The crowd was led in singing the National Anthem by
a rock star, who had been up all night with three groupies. A squadron of dive bombers flew between the goal posts. He stood with with everyone else. As the music was played, he moved his lips because he was chewing peanuts, and he stared at the chest of a majorette. Then he sat down with everyone else.
The man in the next seat offered him a sip from his hip flask.
Over half an hour later, end of the first, and no hits yet.
Why is the reality of drinking of beer so much different than what I see in the commercials? I guess it’s not so important anymore. From what I see on TV, I’m apparently too old to drink beer.
Three up, three down for Halladay to end the top of the 2nd.
People get paid for doing this shit (live blogging)?
Ford commercial. I’ll never buy another Ford. Owning a Ranger was one of the worst experiences in my life, just slightly better than getting bacillary dysentery in Morocco.
David Robertson pitching for the AL. Full count on Holliday.
3 innings, still no score
I think that giving the home-field advantage to the team whose league won the All-Star Game is a bunch of baloney. Or bologna. Why should a team benefit or suffer from the deeds of a composite team that plays only one game?
Oh, fuck, Lee gives Gonzalez the pitch he wants. Home run, 1-0, AL.(I told my son that the NL was going to win).
Prince Fielder’s dropped fly is ruled a hit, not an error.
Why am I doing this? I’m beginning to get bored.
Prince Fielder has redeemed himself, and then some. NL leads 3-1.
There’s a Jew on first base, as Kevin Youkilis hits a 2-out single. The Red Sox players are actually concerned about the outcome of this game, as they plan to make it to the World Series.
Kendrick grounds out, stranding the Jew at 2nd base. Still 3-1.
Oh, shit, they’re singing G-d Bless America. Do we really need to have this gross admixture of religion, nationalism, and big-dollar professional sports?
Castro of the Cubs just struck out. How did a guy who made 17 errors so far make the All-Star team?
The Panda is up to bat. Will we see any other Giants (Timmy? Wilson?)?
Sandoval gets an RBI. 4-1, NL leads.
2 outs from an NL win
Will Castro’s error loom large? What is this guy doing in the All-Star game anyway?
The Beard is on his way in. Will he save the NL?
One out to go.
Back to back wins for the NL!