Archive for April, 2008

Our Os are Back

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

How about that bottom of the 8th comeback. Huff has made strides toward recovery. Rejoicing was had.

Science Behind Baseball

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Last Friday, Talk of the Nation had a program on the science behind baseball. Listen to the program here for a discussion about the effect of lowering the pitching mound and why we support our losing team. The guests include Dan Gordon, author of Your Brain on Cubs.

He says it’s okay, that I can’t help it. Also, my reading list will never get smaller.

Opening Day

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

There’s so much to say about the weekend. I posted some pictures on Nomadic Traveler but haven’t had a chance to tell any of the stories yet. I’ll have to write later about Fan Fest and the nice Orioles couple we met, Dave and Phyllis, the Davidson game, the other Davidson game, lecturing my seven year old great nephew (the punk had it coming – you’ll see, you’ll agree), visiting friends and family, the trip to D.C. and how homesick I feel every time I visit Baltimore, and of course, my wonderful husband, who understands that certain things are important to me even if he’ll never be able to comprehend why.

First priority is writing about Opening Day.

My Orioles blogger friends no doubt saw the game, so I needn’t recount the play by play of the game, but I will share some details about the experience of being there.

Let’s start with Monday morning. It was drizzling and cold in Baltimore. All weekend, I kept checking the weather forecast to see if the prediction for scattered showers had changed. Then I would check the radar and make my own guess. By Monday morning, it was all still uncertain as to whether the game would be rained out or delayed. What to do. What to do.

Originally, I wanted to arrive at Camden Yards at 10:30, even though game time was 3:00 p.m. How I planned to occupy myself during all that time, I don’t know, I just didn’t want to miss anything. Instead, tempering myself, I decided that if I didn’t get to Camden Yards until after noon, it would probably still be okay, OPACY would still be there, and it was rather unlikely that I would have missed anything (“It’ll be okay, it will be okay.”).

In an effort to pose as a somewhat more rational person, we spent the morning at my old university to see how it had changed, and, more importantly, to purchase some Retrievers t-shirts in preparation for next year when they’ll make it to Sweet Sixteen. I’ll elaborate more later on how lovely the new campus is and how lucky (spoiled rotten) today’s kids are. What’s important for this story is that the campus tour killed a couple of hours, by which time the weather had cleared up, and assured that the game would be on, so off to Camden Yards I went.

I was so happy to be there. I was two hours early, it was still cold and overcast and do you think I cared? Not a bit. I was grateful to have a ticket and grateful that the game wasn’t rained out. I watched the grounds crew do their usual thing, remove the tarp, roll it up, smooth the infield, and paint the lines, and additional crew set up a dramatic Opening Day ceremony, arranging the fireworks, an archway made of orange balloons and a long orange runway spanning from the outfield fence to the infield.

Then I purchased my beer, hamburger and fries and returned to my seat to watch some more. (A conversation Friday went on for too long about hot dogs and it put me off them.) I was still the only one seated in the Club Boxes and there was only a smattering of people in the stadium.

A bit later, Christopher, my waiter came by and said, “I’m your waiter.” I exclaimed, “I have a waiter?” I was only kidding in my blog post when I suggested I might have one. Tragically though, I wasn’t able to use Christopher’s services as the beer choices on the ordering card were beverages I would only ever drink if I was in the middle of a desert and had gone for days without any liquid and grown tired of my own urine.

Before the game started there was a dramatic display of announcing each of the Orioles, who ran one by one through the arch of balloons and down the runway before lining up along the infield. I wondered what sort of reception Huff would receive. Predictably, he was booed. (More on that later.) Trembley and Jones both got a lot of love, as did the returning Orioles. Most of the rest, always preceded with a “Welcome to Baltimore” received more of a golf clap. Then there were fireworks to make it all more dramatic. It was delicious.

I relished the O in the anthem. I enjoyed keeping score in my own relaxed fashion. I was fascinated with watching Shields’ most unusual pitching ritual, a deep stoop, then the nod, then the wind up. (Maybe it distracted the Orioles batters.) It was all so good. Even when we started losing to Tampa Bay, I still found myself thinking, “I wish I could be here every day.” (I did involuntarily swear when Mora dropped the ball that should have been an out at home, but at least it was a mild expletive. Even so, I need to work on that. I don’t know how, but somehow I need to figure it out.)

In the end, as you all know, our Os lost to Tampa Bay. I’d say that’s a pretty bad omen for the rest of the season (and have), but it’s just one game. Maybe we’ll pull it together yet.

What a gift to be at the game! Finally, after so many years of wishing I could be at Opening Day and vowing, “next year, I’ll have to go.”

I wish the story ended there, but I have to be honest and tell the whole story. There were two things that annoyed me yesterday. One is that “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” was cut waaaaay short. I was hot. You don’t mess with tradition like that.

The other, I tell you with utter disgust. You may have heard that Huff was booed every time his name was announced. I’m going to make a case in defense of him. Perhaps his message about Baltimore was taken out of context. Perhaps he was referring to the fans, in which case, I’m right there with him. I’m not talking about the 6,000 fans who were at the game and actually cared about baseball or the Orioles. I mean the rest of the fans who either didn’t bother to show up, or came, but stayed inside the Club Boxes socializing and dangling their pinky finger as they ever so delicately sipped their Budweiser. It was Opening Day and the stadium wasn’t even half full. Two men to one side of me left in the fourth inning. The two hoodle-heads sitting in front of me, I don’t think saw a single out, pitch, or bat. They talked through the entire game. Granted, I’ve done that on rare occassion myself, but never on Opening Day. When I went inside, there were gobs of people standing around not paying a lick of attention to the game, drinking, chatting, and I guess being seen. Why bother to come?

I lamented this later in a moment of gossip to the usher, who agreed, but then added, “Well, you have to give the fans a product they want to see.” Here is where you might want to stop reading because I’m about to launch into a full-on tirade. (No, I’ve only just warmed up.) The next time someone expresses a sentiment like that, I’m going to knee him in the misters. If it’s a chick, I’ll pull her hair out or something.

Is this a symptom of our instant gratification society? We want everything we want, and we want it now. It got me thinking what this reflects about our society and our values? What does America believe now? Is the only time to support your team when they’re winning? Or, here’s an idea, do you stand behind the team through the bad years too? Do you stand behind your family through the hard times or give up on them and kick them out if there’s a rough patch? Should parents only cheer for their children when they’re getting straight A’s or are the star on the Little League team? No, of course not, right? Is this, “They’re only my team when they’re good” thinking the same thinking that results in our high divorce rate?

Here’s my stance. You’re either a fan or you’re not. You don’t get to call yourself a fan when you only follow the team when they’re winning. To all those fans, I say, “We don’t need you. You can keep your Yankee or Boston cap and keep selling your soul to the devil.” I could say more about corporate boxes, the price of tickets, the atmosphere, but I’ll stop there. I’m sure those of you who care about the Orioles already know what I’m thinking.

Of all the words I hate to eat, I retract my comment about hating Red Sox fans–and I’m talking here about those who are real fans, not just recent fans of a winning team. I will never like them coming to MY stadium and being all loud-mouthed (and they have been since the 70s), but I do respect them for standing by their team and knowing the meaning of fan support.

Maybe Huff was on to something (I booed him anyway 🙂 ). Sadly, a lot of people who were able to get tickets to yesterday’s game didn’t deserve them. My husband watched the game from a bar instead of sitting in the empty seat beside me. When the Orioles wonder why there isn’t a lot of energy in the stadium or fan support, one place they can find an answer is inside the Club Box.

In the end, sure it hurt a little to lose to Tampa Bay, but loss or win, Opening Day gets two thumbs up. It was worth the cost, the drive, and the five hours of sleep last night to get back to Charlotte in time for work this morning.

Hopefully you enjoyed the game as much as I did, because whether you were there in person, no matter that we lost, our ORIOLES ARE BACK and they have those of us in the diaspora who will always love ’em.

I’ll post the pictures from the game as soon as I get a chance.