My lack of interest in sports is fairly notorious around these parts.
First, because I work with a lot of men who enjoy talking about bats and balls and touchdowns and runs and team rivalries and other sportsy things in our office. I contribute nothing to these conversations except exaggerated yawns and eye-rolling. I understand that tons of women are into sports. They play them. Watch them. Follow them. Understand what is happening on screen when the TV announcers stop the clock and draw circles around the football players with arrows.
But I’m not one of them. So the fact that the Amazin’ Mets are about to play a wild card game—whatever that means—is lost on me.
The second thing that makes my non-fandom somewhat remarkable is that I am an award-winning sportswriter.
So when my daughter’s cheer team was presented with the opportunity to perform at Citi Field at a Mets home game on Sept. 24 against the Philadelphia Phillies, I was excited for her, but not so much about the idea of watching a baseball game. I did like the idea of tailgating, however. I enjoy a 6-foot hero like the rest of America. And I loved that she and her team would have the chance to perform at such a tremendous venue in front of a ginormous audience and that she would feel the fresh green grass that famous baseball players (none of whom I can name without prompting) run through while she and her friends gaze up into the stands while they do their thing. Who gets to do that every day?
Let me be honest, they were fantastic! Taught by New York Jets cheerleaders, hundreds of elementary-age cheerleaders (and their coaches) took the field after hours of fun, but intense, practice. They completed a dance to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” and Meghan Trainor’s “Me Too.” In turn, each of the girls was broadcast from the Jumbotron. Exhilarated and excited, my daughter proclaimed that the experience was “the best thing that ever happened in my life—even more than Disney!” If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.
Then we stayed for the game.
I tried to make the best of it, and even contacted Press pal and Mets fanatic Jim Breuer to see if he’d be broadcasting his infamously hysterical viral post-game recap videos from the stands, and if so, whether I could join him, but he’s on tour and wasn’t in New York. He implored me to enjoy it. And to wear Mets gear. He let it be known that our friendship kind of hinged on this.
“You wear blue and orange to a Mets game,” he told me through the phone in the middle of an editorial meeting. “You get decked out in Mets gear! You love it!”
“Enjoy your daughter!” he advised.
With a borrowed Mets cap, I tried. But my attention span has a way of cutting out after approximately one minute. So, after chatting with the other parents seated in our section, looking at my phone, texting my husband and snapping pictures, I decided to walk around.
The thing about section 337, where we were seated, is that it requires you to take stairs to the third level, walk 50 feet, go down again, around half the stadium, then back up. And around. So I did that.
Then I looked at the scoreboard.
It was still the first inning.
The girls all performed again after the second inning. They stunted, jumped, clapped and cheered in unison to the thunderous roar of the crowd.
My daughter was escorted to our section, up the stairs, halfway around, down the stairs, then up again, and by this time, she was “literally starving.” The food lines were long, but I wasn’t interested in the game anyway. Off I went.
On the concession line, I learned not only the score of the game and what inning it was, but just how intensely some sports fans take the performance of the players. The Mets’ rough start on the field that day was downright insulting to a lady wearing a black Jurassic Park sweatshirt who was waiting on line for chicken fingers. And she was taking it all very, very personally.
Her boyfriend and I got an earful.
“It’s ten to nothing,” she said, hands on hips, her eyeballs digging deep into the soul of her date, undoubtedly looking for him to answer for her disappointment. “Ten. Ten to zip. Nothing. Nuh. Thing. To ten. I am so sad right now. I’m like really pissed.”
She really was.
“Seriously,” she continued. “The score? Is ten to nothing. Seriously. This is the night I come to a game. This is the night. I am not happy right now.”
Her boyfriend nodded silently. He was wearing a T-shirt that read: “I’ve got 99 problems.”
The line inched forward. The lady paced. She cut in front of a guy holding four beers and a box of hot dogs, causing him to stop short, spill some beer and get mustard on his Mets jersey. He regained his balance and moved forward. Some Mets fans are really resilient.
Every time this Jurassic Park lady came back from peering at the field, she repeated the score. Which was 10. To. Zero. The boyfriend had no answer for this, but he looked increasingly guilty as the game oozed slowly forward like thick molasses.
She caught the attention of two guys in their 20s fully decked out in Mets gear standing behind me.
“What?! They’re down by ten?! It’s the fourth inning! We’re better than this!” she proclaimed.
That’s a thing that trips me up. Not to sound like Chazz Palminteri in A Bronx Tale, but how exactly do fans consider themselves a collective “we”? As in: “We won!” “We beat the Patriots!” “We are the champions, my friend!”
I had spent a small fortune on tickets and parking, but I didn’t feel as if the Mets players and I were all in this together.
I’d moved six inches in line. Now the 10-0 lady started leading the chicken-finger line in a “Let’s Go Mets!” chant.
Eventually, I saw the Promised Land, disguised as an overworked woman taking the orders of the people right in front of me. Apparently, the boyfriend had lost his appetite.
“Are you serious right now?” Jurassic Park lady said. “We’ve been on this line for an hour and a half, and now you don’t want food? I will f–king body-slam you right now. Get a f–king pretzel.”
He did as he was told.
I finally got an order of chicken fingers, but now I can’t pay my mortgage.
It was the sixth inning by the time I returned to section 337. The Mets were batting. Everybody started cheering like crazy so I looked on the field and saw that the bases were loaded and a guy had just scored.
Then another guy hit the ball and the guy in the field didn’t catch it, so another player ran home. That happened two more times and the people in the stands were going absolutely bananas. It was impossible to feel nothing.
In all of the excitement, I clapped. I yelled “Whooo!” from section 337.
Eventually, there were three outs. The Mets had scored four runs. The crowd was electrified. My heart felt happy for the Jurassic Park lady. I imagined she was eating her chicken fingers with a renewed gusto (and most likely her boyfriend’s pretzel as well).
And then we left early to beat the traffic. I never found out if the Mets won or lost. I still don’t know.
Good game, anyway, sports fans. Good game. And a truly Amazin’ time with my daughter.
(Featured photo credit: Eric Kilby)