Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Speedboating Baseball

Somehow he had become a big baseball fan. Even though he was only 5 years old and had trouble pronouncing last names like Uribe and Rentaria, he loved the game and would sit through 9 innings without a break. We started collecting baseball cards and it wasn’t long before Emmanuel Burriss’ card replaced his teddy bear at bedtime. I was thrilled because I loved baseball…and because it was so damn cute.

His first game was a Monday night vs. the Braves. I bought tickets on craigslist in the Club Level to avoid the requisite drunks that inevitably populate sporting events. The level offered easy in and out access, shorter bathroom and concession lines and had an enclosed area to watch the games on flat screens in case it was too cold. It was a little more expensive, but it was his first game and I was hoping to avoid a drunken brawl between Giants and Braves fans.

The game was exciting. It had great pitching, stellar defense, plays at home, home runs…and the obligatory drunk. Regardless of how much you pay for a ticket, you can’t escape the drunks. Lesson learned.

In a sea of white baseball fans, 2 young African American men strolled down the aisle carrying 2 beers a piece, garlic fries and hot dogs. It was the second inning and they sat 2 rows in front of us. After putting down their food and beer, the taller, leaner one of the two – the one that got the ladies – stood up, pulled out a 5th of Hennessy from his back pocket and took a long drag. He did nothing to conceal what he was doing. Grimacing from the bite of alcohol, he turned around and addressed the crowd: “Who’s a Giants fan? Stand up if you’re a Giants fans? Come on!” Nobody stood up. He waved his hand us and sat down, grumbling how he was the biggest fan. I leaned over to Wolfie (son) and said, “He’s funny, isn’t he?” hoping to defuse any subsequent actions brought on by his behavior. He wasn’t long for the game.

At the end of the inning he and his buddy left, returning in the bottom of the 4th with more beers and snacks. For the next 3 innings, he chided every opposing batter with taunts and swears and befriended the 2 pre-teens sitting next to me, much to the chagrin of their conservative parents. He acknowledged Wolfie’s presence and threw him high-5’s. Wolfie gladly reciprocated. He was harmless, even charming at times, but it wasn’t going to end well.

In the middle of the 7th evening, the P.A. announcer asked for a moment of silence, to honor American soldiers who died in war. It was Memorial Day. My friend 2 rows in front of us took the opportunity to finish off the last dregs of Hennessey. He tipped the bottle back; beads of alcohol fell on his extended tongue. He dropped the bottle and yelled, “Viva la baseball! Viva la Baseball. Go Gigantes!” I gave him the once over, reevaluating his heritage. Maybe he was Latino and I was too stupid to know? In his alcohol soaked brain, I assumed he had mistaken Memorial Day for Cinco de Mayo.

It started with, “Shut up, idiot.” And then, “Have some respect.” He was oblivious to the forces gathering around him. He continued yelling, “Viva La Baseball,” while dancing in his seat. Finally a woman across the aisle got his attention, “Shut up, you fool, and have some respect.” He countered with, “I served my country, I served my country.” The simple act of responding brought out every Central Valley speedboat owner that did a stint in the Iraq War, the Gulf War and even Nam. Throughout the section, beefy, barrel-chested white men turned toward him and stared him down. It didn’t look pretty.

Just in time, 2 policemen tapped him on the shoulder He stood, knowing his time was up. He looked like he was used to this. As he ascended the stairs, both cops gripping the back of his arms, half the section clapped. I felt this was in poor taste. I kinda liked the guy.

An inning later his quiet friend appeared and sat down. He stayed for one out and then left.

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