Fast Freddy Goodman shows us what goes into ballpark hot dogs
In general, getting older has not meant much to me. That is, I haven’t had too many age-related complaints so far. Sure, I gripe about the world in general as much as any old fart, but it’s not because I find myself falling apart in any of the myriad ways usually associated with aging. It’s just that modern life sucks spectacularly, in some respects, when compared to the relatively recent past. My bleating is usually confined to bemoaning the loss of some part of the outside world rather than some part of me. However, there is one physical loss that I really am sad about, and that's the loss of my eagle-like eyesight.
When I was a kid, I had 20-15 vision. That meant I could see at 20 feet what most others had to be within 15 feet of to see clearly. Ted Williams, the great slugger for the Red Sox, was said to have had 20-10 vision, and I figured if he could hit .406 with his vision, and ‘normal’ folks hit .270 with their crummy 20-20 vision, then it was reasonable to assume I would split the difference and hit about .337 in the majors. That did not turn out to be the case, but I was consistently able to read billboards and street signs from up to a city block farther than when they’d come into focus for my friends. Outside of sports, there was little practical use for such a skill (unless I had pursued a career as a sniper) but it did come in very handy in one way that personally gratified me. I’d buy a seat in the bleachers at Fenway Park and view the game as easily as the folks who paid twice as much to watch it from the grandstands. The action being 500 feet away presented no hindrance to my enjoyment.
I mention this because, a few weeks ago, I found myself in the right field grandstands at Fenway with my friend, Fast Freddy Goodman, and I couldn’t see shit. Even when I put on my glasses (which I had never had a need for until the age of 47) I still wasn’t able to see things as sharply as when I was a kid. The glasses only correct to 20-20.
Of course, being in the right field seats at Fenway is no bargain for seeing a game under the best of circumstances. Most of the seats face approximately toward second base, necessitating always turning your head to the left in order to see home plate (and then you’re looking through about 8,000 heads in front of you, so you can’t see it anyway.) Since I couldn’t really watch the game in any way that afforded me pleasure, I sat back and listened to it. And (here comes the old-fart-bitching portion of our program) it sucked. You can’t hear even a tiny portion of the actual game these days. No crack of the bat; no ball thwacking into the catcher’s mitt; no "Strike!" or "Out!" or "Safe!" from the umpire. Every aural space is filled with hideous music, canned crowd chants, superfluous announcements from the P.A. system, advertising noise accompanying the video scoreboard, and, on top of those annoyances, most of the fans are attempting to hold conversations by shouting at one another over the general cacophony. The only fans not talking to each other are the self-important dickheads on their cell phones calling home to ask if they’re on camera (and, as far as I’m concerned, bringing a cell phone into a ball park should be punishable by having a flaming hot Fenway Frank shoved up each of your nostrils. As a matter of fact, that would be funny enough to get me to hand out cell phones at the gate to the unsuspecting. And I’d pay for the franks, too.)
At what point did sporting events themselves become not enough to hold a patron’s attention?
When I was a kid, the only sounds at a ballpark - at Fenway, in any case - not coming from the game itself were player introductions by Sherm Feller and the organ playing of John Kiley. Had cell phones been around then, and someone had had the temerity to pull one out and make a call during the game, the fans in that section probably would have grabbed the thing and shoved it up his ass while Kiley played a rousing rendition of "The Mexican Hat Dance". Had anyone tried to start The Wave, they would have been carted away to the Massachusetts Home For The Terminally Bewildered.
Certain people I am acquainted with – Hi, Daryl! – find baseball a hideous bore. I always used to counter such complaining by saying that baseball is the thinking man’s game, and if you find it boring, well, it’s not because the game is stupid. Now I have to acknowledge that argument as being false. There is absolutely no way for anyone to even begin to think at a baseball game these days. As soon as any sort of cogent thought begins to form in your head, it’s time for a sausage race, or time to guess tonight’s attendance, or time to sing Sweet Caroline, for God’s sakes (although I do have to admit to getting a certain perverse pleasure from imagining some visitor from out of town hearing 35,000 Sox fans singing a Neil Diamond tune and trying to fathom why. The fact that there is no good reason is what makes it an especially entertaining thought.)
The ball park – any ball park – used to be a pastoral place, green and relaxing, where you could watch a ballgame unfold while enjoying a bit of sun and the ambiance peculiar to the sport. If the game went four hours, or went into extra innings, or – pleasure of pleasures! – you attended a doubleheader, so much the better. That was just more enjoyment. Now, however, the "baseball is too slow!" crowd, their charge led by the cretins at FOX, has seized the day. They've done their damnedest to turn major league baseball into football. What they've succeeded in doing is to make attending a game something much less than pleasurable for fans from a generation or two previous; neither a thinking game nor a game of constant adrenalin rush, but some hybrid monstrosity of sport containing not enough of either to satisfy.
Despite my moaning, baseball IS still the thinking man’s sport. It’s just that you have to do your thinking at home with the sound turned down on your TV (or, better yet, with the game on your radio, where you often can use your imagination to create any ballpark and any era you like.) Actually being at the ballpark, these days, is good for getting drunk on lousy beer and stuffing your gullet full of questionable food choices. That used to be only part of the experience, but now it is the best part of it. What a shame. For me, ticket prices have gone through the roof and entertainment value has plummeted to the sub-basement. I’m sure mileage varies tremendously for most baseball fans as shown by ever-increasing attendance figures. For me, though, I think my last baseball game at Fenway may have been my last baseball game at Fenway. I loved the company – Fast Freddy is always a kick to be with – but I can’t imagine subjecting myself to that experience again.
(Of course, if you invite me to a World Series game, I’ll accept. I may be crotchety, but I’m not totally insane.)
Soon, with more better stuff.
P.S. Some real ballplayers, The Bombers, finally resume play this Sunday. I'll have a wrap-up of that action come Tuesday (I'm taking Monday off.) See you then.