Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Baseball, Hot Dogs, and the 4th of July

Baseball is the great American pass-time, tightly woven into the fabric of our lives, part of daily conversation for tens of millions of us, and – unfortunately – reflective in many ways of our changing society.  There seem to be so many more morons and idiots among us now, compared to when Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball.

That’s right – it’s an oft-repeated urban legend that Abner Doubleday invented baseball, but he didn’t, and as a matter of fact never claimed he did.  A bunch of jocks and politicians got together and decided that Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839.  Doubleday was never in Cooperstown.  And, it may shock you to learn he is NOT in the Baseball Hall of Fame there. The jocks and politicians even “ruled” that Doubleday invented the word “baseball”, but that’s just more baloney.

Sorry to shake your beliefs, if you weren’t aware of this.

But, like American politics in 2012, the method used by the Mills Commission in 1908 (which cooked up the Abner Doubleday story) apparently followed the maxim that if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it.

One of the many things that attracted me to my wife was her love of sports, in particular, baseball (although I think she’s actually a bigger hockey fan).  Above is a shot I took of her with her mother and late father, at a Sox game at Comiskey Park in July of 2002.  We have gone to countless baseball games together, and have taken our kids to scores of Cubs, Sox, and Brewers games.

We used to go to at least one Cubs game at Wrigley Field every year – often to several each season – but we haven’t been to Wrigley for at least five years.  It’s expensive, it’s a long drive there and back, and the last time we went, there were so many morons around us that it just made the entire experience unpleasant.  We were surrounded by idiots in thousand-dollar-suits, who had apparently won some sales contest for some mutual-fund peddling outfit, and the lot of them spent the entire game on their Blackberries, calling their pals and saying inane stuff like “Guess where I am?! Wrigley Field!!!!”.  By the third inning they were drunk, and more obnoxious than I’d care to describe, dispensing at full-volume such baseball wisdom as "you gotta hit it where they ain't!!!"

The last five years or so, we’ve gone to plenty of Brewers games, but we spend the big bucks and get seats directly behind home plate, about ten rows up in section 117 or 118, where we have been surrounded every time by people who actually pay attention to the game and leave their bratty kids at home (rather than waste a hundred bucks to buy a seat for them).  We have also been spared from the typical drunken boorish behavior that’s exhibited at Miller Park, just as it is in ball parks around the nation.  At least in our experience at Miller Park, the folks who buy the good seats behind home plate are there to see the game.

My friend Jennifer Miller, who, like me, was a news anchor for the past couple decades (although, of course, Jennifer is MUCH younger than me), and is a huge Brewers fan, went to a game at Miller Park a few days ago and was so off-put that she wrote a great rant about it on Facebook.  She made several cogent points, including “the Diamond Dancers add NOTHING to the Miller Park experience” – THAT, Jennifer, is very much a matter of opinion….and she said “The more beers the drunk behind you has, the more he thinks he’s an expert on the game of baseball.  Sober up and shut up, though not necessarily in that order.”  But Jennifer’s next two points both made me laugh out loud.  She wrote “Awwww, you brought your baby…..to the ballpark.  I have 3 kids so I am more than qualified to tell you that no one under the age of 3 ever got anything out of a major league baseball game.  Never mind that you’re bringing your infant into a loud, hot, germ-infested environment filled with tens of thousands of people (many of whom are drunk), when babies do what babies do (cry and poop), it’s no fun for you or those around you.  In my day, you got a sitter or you didn’t go.  Sorry.”

True dat, sister!

And the last point of Jennifer’s rant: “Hey you.  Yeah, you 20-something in the short shorts and the way too tight Brewers’ t-shirt.  Give it up!  Ryan Braun is not going to marry you.”  (By the way, the game Jennifer was at was the one where the Brewers smoked the D-Backs, featuring two Braun round-trippers and two runs scored by “Rickie Darnell Weeks, Jr”.  I love that Jennifer knows his full and proper name!)

Jennifer, Ryan Braun may not marry that 20-something, but…he just might show her a night on the town.  You will need to discuss this further with my wife, who dated a lot of ballplayers and essentially lived at the ballpark on the south side of Chicago in her checkered youth.

There are way too many unsupervised brats at ball games these days.  Kids who have no interest in the game, who are apparently dragged there by their parents, who allow these hellions to annoy the other fans, unfettered.  My tuba-playing friend Tom Plummer, who loves kids and has been an Iowa high school band director essentially all his life, took his adult son to see a Cubs-Twins game at Target Field a couple weeks ago.  Tom is one of those die-hard Cubs fans who thoroughly understands every aspect of the game (“a student of baseball”, as they used to say), follows it religiously, and is up-to-the minute on news and opinions regarding the team.  His Facebook report on the game said “Target Field was awesome. Soriano crushed two home runs.  I got to see the Budweiser Clydesdales. The down side was that it was “Undisciplined Kids Night” and “Moron Night” at the ballpark also.”  Tom is far too much of a gentleman to call them “brats and drunks” – but again, another example of a major league baseball experience diminished by people who can’t control their drinking, and can’t (or don’t) control their kids.

Regardless, baseball is our national game, and after I watch the hot-dog eating contest on ESPN the afternoon of July 4th, my wife and I will tune in the Brewers-Marlins game from Miller Park.  But we’ll do it from the air-conditioned comfort of our media room, undisturbed by drunks and brats, with the American flag flying proudly over the Morrissey Compound.

Bad behavior at the ball park has become as American as apple pie.  Happy 4th of July!


  1. if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it.

    c.f. any Obama speech.

    BTW, in my day, the word was spelled "pastime."

  2. Must . . . not . . . feed . . . the . . . troll.

    Actually, the reason I clicked the comment box in the first place was to simply say "here here." I have been publicly intoxicated myself a time or two, but not since the early 80s, and I fail to understand its allure anymore. Do you suppose these dopes are wandering around State Street on Friday nights the same way, or is it something about the ballpark?

    Or do they have to drink themselves blind to feel like they're not getting screwed paying 8.50 apiece for Miller Lite?

    Well said. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for your forbearance, JB, but the term is "Hear! Hear!!"

    Personally, I boycott Miller Park activities because of the ObozoCare-like malefaction which financed it.

  4. Holy smokes Dad, I hate to have to say that you're right about something, but you are about "hear hear." In my defense, however, it *was* 6:30 in the morning.

  5. I've been advocating that MLB stadiums need to have sections, each subsequent section further from home plate...Baseball Fans Section, Family Section, General Admission.

    The Baseball Fans Section would have specific conduct rules, and if you don't follow them, you're out on your butt. I don't care about the other two sections.

    Now, what would be fun is to create a list of Can do and Can't Do items for the Baseball Fan Section.

    My first is: #1. Baseball Fans shall not leave or return to their seats except between half-innings or changes in pitchers.

    What are others?

    BTW - Minor league games at Beloit or Appleton are far more enjoyable than MLB games. Far fewer annoying people, and if they sit near you, there's room to move.

    1. I was at the July 4th game, and damn was it hot 100 at game time. Actually, I've had less trouble with kids than with the obnoxious drunks over the years, but I agree in general that a baby or real young child shouldn't be hauled to a game. I've been to a whole lot of Major League parks and the drunk problem is universal. That's an awful expensive way to get drunk.

      BTW, when can we hear about the ball players your wife dated? South side of Chicago, must have been White Sox?

    2. Anony, agreed about swilling beer after beer at the ball park being an awfully expensive way to get drunk. As to my wife's ballplayer dates....all I can say without getting into trouble is that there is a fairly well-circulated picture of her with Carlton Fisk.....