If you've ever read a Haruki Murakami novel (and why wouldn't you?!), then you know that there's a certain magic to be found in things like creepy wells, spaghetti, Cutty Sark, talking cats, loneliness, and most importantly: baseball. Actually, Murakami credits a baseball game with jumpstarting his career as a writer. Since he was 30 years old when he started writing books, I figured it was appropriate for me to go to my first baseball game at almost-30.
When you're from Alabama, the only thing that matters is college football (the NFL? Baseball? Soccer? What are those things?). It's a lifestyle. "Hey Bob, how you doing today? Roll Tide," is a common greeting. College football is a religion—and it's insane—it's all about that old rivalry: Alabama vs. Auburn. I mean, Lucky Peach wrote a cover story about it just called "Insane". And while I'm now enjoying the freedom of being able to wear red/white or orange/blue on any given day in California without having it be some kind of indicator of fandom, I have to admit that I may now have a little crush on baseball. Murakami had the right idea.
Here's what I learned from going to a real-life sporting event.
Go with a fan.
They'll know where to park, where to get cheap(er)/better beer before the game, when to go to the bathroom. And they'll walk you directly to guest services at AT&T Park so you can snag a certificate indicating your First Baseball Game—nevermind that the other recipients were small children. Certificates are cool. Depending on how much the fan likes you, they may or may not want to move a few seats down from you when things like this happen:
Don't accidentally wear the colors of the opposing team.
I was so proud of myself for finally remembering to bring layers to San Francisco. After a sweaty stream of 100+ degree days in Sacramento (yes, it's still summer in September/October), I was looking forward to the "hoodie weather" promises of the bay area. As soon as we get to the stadium, I throw on a hoodie under my pleather jacket, which elicits a look of disgust from my company: "you can't wear that," he says. "What?" I look around.
My red hoodie was a bad choice, as the Giants were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose primary colors (if you didn't know, dum-dum, jeez) are black and....red. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the evening trying to bury as much red underneath my top layer coat as possible. Which was all fine and good until I ended up on the Jumbotron.
If you want/don't want to end up on the Jumbotron...
Do/don't sit behind a really cute baby. Not only did the camera guys film this Cute Baby once, they were instructed via the voices in their earpieces (who are those people?) to keep coming back for the inevitable nap time frames. That's ample opportunities to be awkward on a big screen. I quickly learned:
- I'm even paler on the big screen. Sorry, San Francisco/at-home-viewers. This face wasn't meant for the camera.
- When a camera guy is in your vicinity, you start to worry about the faces you're making. Do I look like the Joker right now? Am I smiling like a serial killer? Do I have boogers? (Probably).
Master the heckle.
Perhaps my favorite discovery in this whole baseball business is the sheer Mean Girls aspect of the whole thing; it's all one big head game. People hoot and holler and heckle the opposing team. Every time the team practiced throws, there was a persistent WOOP! ... WOOoo with every toss. For some reason I found this fascinating and hilarious, laughing like a hyena and nearly falling out of my chair every time. Again, sorry, San Francisco. This is why I can't go nice places.
Heckling is a thing. In fact, I did a little digging and found a website called the Heckle Depot devoted entirely to baseball heckles; I'm working on my game for next season (unfortunately our SF Giants didn't have the best year).
Eat the food.
But sparingly, for real. Those Cracker Jacks cost me $7.50, and the prize was a bad sticker. Eat the hot dog, don't drink the $10+ beer, and bring your own snacks, lest you feel less and less guilty over wanting to steal the Cute Baby's Cheerios stash. At least that didn't happen on the Jumbotron (this time).