Take me out to the ballgame


I'm not a huge sports fan. (Actually, I like watching the Red Wings when they're good. That's a safe way for a geek to lay claim to some man-cred, because he'll never be challenged on it. America has forgotten hockey exists.) I don't make time to watch sports on TV and I've never been tempted to go to games in person. In fact, I went to two Big Ten schools without ever going to one of their football games.

Fast forward 20 years. I've recently been to professional hockey (Chicago Blackhawks), basketball (Cleveland Cavaliers), and baseball games (Cleveland Indians). I'm beginning to see the appeal. At last night's Indians game, the weather was cool and clear, the stands were full enough to feel like you had company but not so full that you couldn't move, and people were relaxed and in a good mood. I could hear conversations all around me and I had an unobstructed view of pretty much everything. I felt, in a word, connected.

One of the walking vendors had a loud schtick that went like this: "Beer guy. Ice cold beer. Beer guy. Ice cold beer. Bottled water. Beer guy. Ice cold beer. Beer guy. Ice cold beer." He did this enough times for it to become familiar. Just when I was beginning to tune him out, he said: "Not the mail guy. Not the tax guy. Not the police guy. The beer guy." That got some laughs. Everybody for two sections around turned to look at the guy. The little boys behind us thought it was hysterical. For the rest of the game, they faked his craggy voice and once in a while I'd hear them croaking, "not the business guy..." It was funnier than most SNL skits.

The game was boring. The Twins got a total of maybe four hits, and didn't score until a fluke homer with the bases empty in their second-to-last out. The Indians were better but still not particularly good. On TV, baseball is as boring as Congress. But it wasn't about the game. In the ballpark, there are cheerleaders, prizes being tossed into the stands, cameras showing the fans up on the big screen ... it works. There are all kinds of people there, there's enough room and time to interact, and all kinds of distractions to talk about. It's public.