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"Chronicle Groupie"
Hyperion May 4, 2001

#38 Take me out to the ball game

Three things I learned at a baseball game:

1. They are not kidding about the prices.

The tickets were complimentary, thankfully, but everything else was sky high. My friend “Koz” and I drove to the stadium to watch the game. We get there and pull into the parking lot, and the attendant tells me “Ten dollars.” Ten dollars? TEN DOLLARS? To park? For ten dollars, I want my car washed while I watch the game.

Then we get to the gate. Koz had brought a cooler (small, he told me, or they won’t let it in), and the guard had to check it. I figured it was for security purposes (insert your own “the world is going to hell in a hand basket” comment here). It was, but Koz told me the main reason is that they won’t let anyone bring beer into the game, because that would hurt concessions sales. America’s Pastime indeed.

And I thought movies were expensive. Long about the 4th Inning, Koz goes to get a hotdog; tradition, he tells me. He returns with a delicious-looking dog, which prompts me to want one. I ask him how much and he tells me “$6.75.” Yes, for a hot dog. I don’t even know what I want my hot dog to do for $6.75.

2. I’m a sucker for a pretty face.

We are sitting there enjoying the game, so to speak, when I notice the distinct smell of cigarettes. I hate that smell. For one thing, I am allergic to it. After a couple of hours in a bowling alley, I look like a woman who just sat through a double header of “Steel Magnolias” and “Beaches”. For another thing, this is just my pet peeve. I hate it when people start smoking in public places, when there are many other people around. I mutter to Koz my displeasure, and I start making threats to spit my sunflower seed shells at the offenders. I figure if it is ok to blow smoke in my face it has to be ok to spit the seeds.

Then, one of the girls behind me who are smoking taps me on the shoulder and asks me if her smoking bothers me. Here is my chance to make a self-righteous speech. Here is my chance to stand up for all us regular people who are only trying to watch a game in peace. Here is my chance to breathe normally again. And I do not take it. Ok, I admit; the girls were hot, but I hope that does not have much to do with it. I mean, I would not date a smoker, so why should their beauty affect me here? But it does. Or maybe I am just a coward when directly confronted. I hate to make a scene, contrary to rumor, and telling those girls that their cancer sticks did bother me would be awkward. So, I say nothing, and suffer in silence. It serves me right; big baby.

3. There is still joy to be had in this world

About the second inning, this group of people come in and sits two rows ahead of us. All are men ranging from eighteen to thirty, and most of them are dressed alike. After a minute, it becomes apparent that, except for the leader, they are mentally handicapped, or what we used to call retarded, before that word became evil. These guys are having the time of their lives. It does not matter it there is a foul ball, a grounder to second, or a home run, home team or visitor, these guys are cheering like mad. At first, it is somewhat peculiar, because the cheering is not coordinated with the rest of us. But then, I look at the world through their eyes. These guys are not jaded by the ticket prices, bothered by the smokers, or upset that the pitcher cannot seem to throw a strike. They are just thrilled to be here, and loving every minute of it. My pity for them soon turns to wonder, and then even a little jealousy. This is what the game is supposed to be about. The lights, the crowd, the atmosphere; these are things I have ignored as I complain about everything going on around me. Somehow, these guys saw what I missed, that it is a beautiful day to be at a ball game.

May 4, 2001


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