Secret Pop

Sep 12, 2003

I don't care if I never get back.

My father invited me to go see the Padres play the Giants tonight at Qualcomm Stadium. I hadn't been to a baseball game in ages and ages, and my entire family was going, so I really had no choice. I drove down from L.A. this morning and enjoyed some quality time with my parents and my sister's dog. Then we headed to the ballpark, where we were far earlier than we needed to be, which created the disappointing hitch of seeing our hot dogs eaten long before the first pitch was thrown out. And that leaves a lot of time to kill.

Surprisingly, by the fourth inning, I actually caught myself paying attention to the game. I know a great deal about baseball, because I once dated a guy who lived it like a religion. But I haven't followed baseball for many, many years. And even when I did, it was sort of under protest. But tonight, perhaps because I was seated so far away from my father that I couldn't really talk to him or interact with him comfortably, and perhaps because there was nothing else to look at, I started watching the plays.

Giants fans were out in force, and they were really very rude, most of them. I was dismayed. I kept thinking it was really unsportinglike for them to be yelling out "Padres suck!" on our home turf. I'm fine with "Let's go, Giants! Let's go!" Cheer all you like. But why must you bait the home crowd? I'm not rowdy like that. And I get a little nervous when I think someone might lose their cool near me. But maybe I'm just a big baby. Anyway, I was annoyed by them, and -- while I no longer have any great amount of emotion invested in the outcome of the Padres' season -- I was gratified to see the Padres pull it out in the bottom of the tenth. Extra innings and an exciting last-minute hurrah -- it's great when that happens. I'm so used to rooting for the losing team. And I don't know why my record has always been tilted in that direction. I live in L.A. now, and I suppose I can cheer about the Lakers most of the time, but I've never gone to see them play, and I'm not entirely sure I feel like they're MY team yet. Say nothing of the Dodgers.

There was also a great deal of promotional stock at the stadium, because next season, the Padres will be playing at the brand new Petco Park in already-crowded Downtown San Diego. I'm sorry that it's going to be called Petco Park. That really doesn't sound very tough, does it? I don't think I like corporate sponsorship-named stadiums anyway. Why can't they give it a person's name and then just insert the corporation as a possessive. Petco's Ted Williams Park. Sort of like Ruth's Chris Steak House. And if they also cooked their steaks in butter at kiln temperatures and served them on a dangerously warm platter, I'd root root root for the home team every night of the week, rest assured.

Perhaps because of the need to move, they were selling a lot of Padres logo merchandise at 75% off, and Beulah and I cruised past the booth and were reminded of the old days when she was a big baseball nut and I used to take her to the games whenever I could get tickets, and I would buy her souvenirs and just generally spoil her as I did in every other respect. We went to see the Cincinnati Reds play one night, because she was a great fan of Eric Davis. And I bought her a little miniature Padres baseball bat, that she kept for a long time. Tonight, she said, "You know how that bat ended up, don't you?" And it turns out that, when my father used to ride his mountain bike around the southern Italian countryside, he would bring that bat with him and use it to defend himself against the wild dogs that would accost him and his Snickers bar. I have photos of my father standing proudly beside his bike, wearing a cycling helmet and biking shorts and a large grin. I found it endearing back then. And picturing him waving his little miniature baseball bat at his canine assailants makes me smile.

I guess I don't care very much about sports. And I generally steer clear of the cult of the sports fan. And I don't enjoy smelling of the outdoors. But I had a nice time tonight. And I liked spending time with my family. What are the chances?

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