Taking the Off-Ramp
1. The Ballpark Promotion that Wasn't
A friend and I took in a baseball game on Friday night at the shrine to minor-league baseball that is Fifth Third Field in Toledo, OH. Seriously, this place is much better than some major-league stadia. This means you, Minnesooooota Twins and Florida Marlins. Anyway, the game promotion listed on the schedule and on the tickets themselves was "Italian-American Night." As one of roughly 17 people of Italian descent in the Toledo area, I felt obliged to make an appearance. We arrived at the ballpark early, maybe 30 minutes before game time. Three hours later, we had yet to see any indication that the promotion extended beyond a line of type. Now, I suppose one could argue that the utter lack of activity was meant to symbolize Italian politics, or that especially solid contact on a fastball may have created an onomatopoedic "Wop!," but I otherwise felt cheated. Couldn't we have at least replaced the hot dogs in the animated scoreboard race with meatballs and Italian sausage? A skit where the umpire gets cement shoes, maybe? Anyway, the game itself and the surroundings were excellent as usual, and for $8 per ticket, it's cheap entertainment.
2. A Lot of Effort for One Quarter of Manning and Dilfer
After polishing off the class I teach on Saturdays, it was time to temporarily trade baseball for football. The same friend from the night before had been offered free tickets to the Giants-Browns preseason game in Cleveland. We left mid-afternoonish to meet another friend for dinner. After a pretty decent meal at Dave and Buster's, it was off to the joy of traffic. We hit the downtown area around 7:40pm, hoping to miss the traffic for the 7:00 Indians game, yet still make the 8:00 Browns game. As 8:00 came and went, we sat still under ominous skies, perhaps a mile from our destination. We decided to pull onto a side street that offered a $5.00 spot in a parking garage, knowing that we could likely walk to the game from there faster than we could drive down the clotted East 9th. No more than 30 seconds after we left the garage on foot, the downpour began. We made a quick decision to return to the car and wait out the storm, and it was an excellent choice. Upon finding the football game on the radio, we discovered they were in an indefinite lightning delay. Instead of giving up and heading back to the turnpike, we opted to play superball in the garage and had an absolute blast! After about 25 minutes and 1 lost superball, we tuned in once more to the game telecast in time to hear that they'd be getting the players back onto the field soon, and expecting a 90-minute gap between two lines of storms in the area. We immediately started walking to the field, arriving at 9:25 or so, just in time to see the first play of the resumed action. The seats were excellent, 5th row from the field at the 10-yard line, near the Dawg Pound. I can't wait to enter the sea of orange in my blue Urlacher jersey when the Bears play Cleveland in October. Anyway, the new Browns Stadium is of markedly higher quality than the football that was played there on Saturday night. We did get to see a nice TD pass from Eli Manning to new teammate Plaxico Burress, along with about 28 holding penalties, before we felt raindrops returning at 10:15 or so. By then, most of the starters had completed their work for the evening, and we chose to hurry back to the car before the next soaking. We hopped a cab back to the car, and quickly hurried past the people streaming out of Jacobs Field as the rains came, just beating the gridlock to reach I-90. So, the final tally was 9 hours from departure to return, including 50 minutes of what could loosely be called professional football. Was it worth the effort? Hell, yes. Through all the uncertainty and hassles, we maintained a very fun and flexible attitude and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
3. Sunday, Cruddy Sunday
Apparently on doctors' orders to look for polyps, my entire softball team played our game on Sunday with its collective head up its ass. I have no problem dealing with physical errors, like misplaying a grounder or overthrowing a base, but stupid play frays my nerves immensely. Well, I pitched reasonably well (1 walk and 6 or 8 strikeouts) and went 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles, and had one of my least enjoyable games ever. We were short a player, and took on our opponent's extra girl to even up the sides. It felt like we were playing 9-on-12, as our new teammate consistently dropped throws that hit her squarely in the mitt, as if purposefully sabotaging our team, and the umpire (also provided by our opponent) made horrendous calls all game, with approximately 2 of the 150 falling in our favor. Add these things to our own boneheadedness, and what should have been a 20-run victory turned into a 20-16 loss. Thankfully, however, the day was salvaged to some extent by a trip to BW-3 for dinner and trivia. I arrived about 5 minutes after my friend, who was kind enough to log in on my game board for me, and played out the remains of one general trivia game. Our first full game resulted in a 20th-place national ranking for me, even with the good-but-not-great score of 13,700 I turned in. By then, I had relaxed and was having a great time, and it showed on the Sports Trivia Challenge, in which I earned a #3 ranking nationally. I had my name in a few places on the national and local leaderboards after those two games, but there was one minor problem. My friend Owen (clumsy poop!), who has a notorious spelling problem, had typed my trivia name incorrectly, so someone named "Allumi" had a very good evening.
Well, I've typed far too much, and none of my 3 or 4 actual readers is probably still conscious at this point, so it's time to close. See you soon, when the Cruiser re-emerges from the rest stop.