What should I be doing instead of this?
July 29th, 2009 By James Cameron Belew | Sports | Posted In: baseball

‘Twas Just Another Day at the Ballpark


Like many Cincinnatians, I put patriotism in the reds. If you don’t love the Redlegs, according to the mantra of the city, you will be placed in the Dante’s layer of hell, which entails being eternally stuck in the mud and stung by wasps. But due to this phenomenon, attending a game at Great American Ball Park can feel like a revival, or an Obama speech.

In Cincinnati we feel that it is our civic duty to attend the plastic beer bottled bonanza of restricted enjoyment. Following suit, I fulfill this endeavor with the hope of common brotherhood, entertainment, mild inebriation and most of all the competitive passion that our city may triumph over another if only for a day, walking the thin line between controlled poisoning and outright debauchery shared by many.

We enter the gate, my accomplice the banker Jak carrying a coke bottle filled with bourbon and myself a bag of bagels, cream cheese and other assorted illicit contraband. We are haphazardly searched in the name of freedom. ‘Tis just another day at the ballpark.

Our seats are good. I see families climbing the stairs to the nosebleed section. We are in need of the real thing, not the light beer the orange skinned white girls so eagerly flirt with their dates, or even sometimes marry, to obtain. As we get to our seats it is realized that though we are close to the alleged action, our seats are terrible.

Drunken white-collared privately educated rakehells surround us like we are at an event that is a mix between a Dave Matthews concert and a Billy Graham mega sermon. As I browse the more expensive seats, I see the ghouls and ghosts of painted wives and fading professionals. We get a large Pepsi, fill it with party poison superior to the rest and begin to observe the game. We are playing the Cardinals. The Redlegs have their work cut out for them, as our division rivals from Saint Louis are never an easy opponent. We are used to losing. We are from Cincinnati. Still, we hope we’ll win.

A one-two-three inning in four pitches. Johnny Cueto shows good pitch selection and his accuracy leads last years MVP Albert Puljos to ground out on the first pitch. Spirits are high, and the flipped up polo shirt crowd has high spirits. We are skeptical. My associate and I don’t even speak. Rather, we just gaze at one another and speak without sound, “It may go well? Maybe.” We are also Bengals fans. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me for fifteen years, my soul is half dead.

The liquor is running through me fast, so I leave for the lavatory. Upon entering I smell the sweetness of what is perceived to be a cigarette. I take a stall next to the smoker with the hope that I can get away with the same “crime.” It’s quite a rush to smoke illegally. It’s not quite the mile high club, but it’s something. There is a song named “Smoking in the Boysroom” after all.

As I prepare my post bourbon Marlboro lighting, a commotion freezes my progress. Two security guards bust into the stall next to mine and I see a stream of urine fly ten feet into the air spraying a golden fountain into the other adjacent stall. He is carried out. He is a terrorist, pissing on himself while trying to enjoy freedom. I think to myself, now I can definitely light up. He is collateral damage to my endeavor.

In the stall to the other side I here a man sniffing with the power of a Hoover vacuum cleaner. What he is putting in his booger barn, I don’t know, and I shag ass out of there. While doing so, I realize that the child outside the door is waiting for poppa sniffles. He made it to a ball game, so they can’t be doing that bad. I am not concerned.

When I return to my seat, my banker buddy is gone. My “bagels” are gone. Somehow it is the bottom of the third inning, we are down six to zip, and the uncomfortably appropriate Latin music is playing for a batter that I don’t recognize. He gets a double. There is hope yet.

One thing about true die-hard indigenous Cincinnati sports fans is that we always have hope. We forget about “bagels.” We remember to look for stray foul balls. We are in the midst of a two-run inning when I realize that this is what it’s all about. There is now nothing but the game, and the reds mustered up a two-run inning. We chatter to one another, “We can chip away. It’s a long game. We can do it.” You are now friends with your neighbors in the stands. ’Tis just another day at the ballpark.

This is the real magic of sports. When Carson Palmer broke his leg in half, after nearly bawling my eyes out like a girl that fell off of her bicycle, we say the same things: “We can win with Kitna.” Though these statements don’t change the fact that the odds are not in our favor, through some kind of voodoo we follow in hope with the legends of Pete Rose and Anthony Munoz calling out to us. At this point in the game, I feel the proud of my local heritage.

And just like that, 1-2-3, Cueto sits them down. The lateral movement on his fastball shows he has good stuff. The banker Jak comes back with a snack attack: LaRosa’s calzones, Skyline cheese coneys and plastic Budweiser bottles. For a second it feels funny knowing that Budweiser is no longer owned by Americans and therefore I can’t have the utter and complete satisfaction of my great American Beer at Great American Ballpark while watching America’s greatest game.

While taking all of this in, I get my bagels. two more runs and we are on the comeback trail. We scream and whoot. It is ordained that we emerge victorious. Yet, as a sports fan and nearly a lifelong Cincinnati resident, I am skeptical. Banker Jak looks around and says, “Where is the ghost of Joe Montana?”

A scoreless inning is quickly played between both sides. Then…

They strike again. Ten to four is the score on the board after six and one half innings. The kids are still waiting for a foul ball. So are we. I had the feeling that we were going to lose from jump street, but I just like a day out at the ballpark. I like seeing the craziness of the most brazen drunkards. Win or lose, we are celebrating life. So I stay to the bitter end with no hope in sight. We were certain to lose. I am not that concerned.

The game ends without much incident. We had four good innings of hope. We can still win the pennant. We are going to win the Super Bowl…we hope. I am not concerned.

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