For the first time in over a decade, I watched a ball game from the stands. Now that I don’t spend my time in the press box, it seemed like something a semi-retired bloke should do,
I made a few discoveries, or re-discoveries:
1. It is expensive. My kid brother Chris and his wife CA were coming down from upstate and invited me to the Mets-Yankee game Sunday night at the stadium I prefer to call New Shea (what with my disdain for banks.)
I never buy tickets for sports events because I work at them. I was horrified to learn that seats in Section 136 in left field cost $110 each. Oh, my goodness. I would have felt all right if Chris had spent, say, $45 per ticket. Later, I heard that the Mets were discounting thousands of tickets to fill up the park for the Dickey-Sabathia matchup. How do people manage to attend these events? (I did my best to combat high concessions prices by bringing in some delicious summer rolls and baguettes from my favorite little Vietnamese place in Bayside.)
2. It is noisy. The sound system bombarded us with witless noise from batting practice to the last out – denying fans a chance to talk baseball.
3. It is competitive. The Yankee fans were at least as loud as the Mets fans, reminding me of the 2000 World Series when Yankee fans gobbled up tickets on the open market and outcheered the Mets fans (Of course, they had more to cheer about in those three games in Shea.)
4. It can be funny. Four Yankee fans behind me (three of them female) were cheering for each Yankee home run. Two Mets fans (I think mother and daughter, in orange shirts) took offense.
Do you have to be so noisy? The Mets mother asked, good-humoredly, maybe.
We’re your guests, one Yankee woman retorted nicely, maybe. You should be more polite.
They settled into a détente. After Cano’s homer put the Yankees ahead, one Yankee female offered a large box of fries to the Mets fan.
I don’t want Yankee fries, the Mets mother sniffed. They have 27 more grams of sodium.
Several rows of fans laughed.
Nice one, the Yankee woman replied with a true New Yawkuh appreciation of a zinger.
5. The game is different from left field. My brother told me A-Rod had blasted shots far over our section in batting practice, but A-Rod came nowhere close when it counted. We were looking over the shoulders of Scott Hairston and Raul Ibanez, as they glided toward fly balls in their direction. Easy plays – for calm professionals, that is. Even from this far away, we could appreciate defense by Cano and Teixeira, and we could reconstruct a bad exchange near first between Turner and Dickey. But home plate was at the far end of our range. It was hard to see pitches cross home plate, hard to follow the umpire’s signal.
6. The ritual is reassuring. Directly in front of us, a boy in a yarmulke sat next to his dad, while capturing images of the game on his electronic tablet. We who have grown children may have felt a little nostalgic, even jealous, over watching this rite of passage.
7. Being in the crowd can be downright enjoyable. With rain pushing most fans back under the eaves, we huddled in place for the bottom of the ninth. We could hear the crack as Ike Davis lashed a drive to right for the final out. Mets and Yankees fans mingled soddenly, politely, on the down staircases. The three of us had survivors’ pride from getting through the sensory wars. I could see doing this again sometime -- if we start saving now.
(Your comments on the inner life in the stands are appreciated.)
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.