Ballpark Buffoonery: A Friday Night at the Fish Tank

If a Marlin smacks a line-drive, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

 

by Alex “The Dors” Dorsky

 

There’s not too much excitement in baseball as we head into the September stretch run. The Angels and Rangers are fighting for the AL West crown (yawn) and the Rays have crept into the American League wild card race thanks to a weekend sweep of the Red Sox, but that’s about it.  And the Fish? Fuhgeddaboudit…

June killed the Marlins season. On June 1, the Fish were 31-22, trailing the Phillies by only 2 games in the NL East and a trendy pick to make the playoffs. One loss followed another, however, and the Fish suffered an embarrassing 1-19 streak, compiling an awful 5-23 record for the month – a month in which they also fired hitting coach John Mallee (who had been with the organization for 10 years and was a player favorite) and saw manager Edwin Rodriguez resign.

The rest of the year has essentially been a countdown until the new, state-of-the-art ballpark opens in 2012, but what the heck, the Phillies were in town. I called a couple friends and the four of us headed out to the game. Roy Oswalt was pitching for the Phillies, and on the mound for the Fish was Brad Hand, one of my new favorite players (if only for his cool Fast-Times-at-Ridgemont-High-esque name).

Everything started normally enough. We were sitting down the left field line, in row 5 of section 103, right by the Philadelphia bullpen. The game was back and forth and I was having fun cheering for the Fish when they took the lead 2-1 in the bottom of the third. Phillies fans looked at me somewhat quizzically as I was wearing a Pirates hat, but they weren’t happy to have anyone in their section cheering against their team.

(Note that I wear the Pirates hat sometimes even if the Pirates aren’t playing if I think I might find myself in a controversial situation – the thought being: Who’s going to go after a guy who roots for a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 1992, anyone wearing a Pirates cap must suffer enough as is…)

I didn’t have long to gloat, though, as John Mayberry Jr. cracked a 2-run home run in the top of the 5th and put the Phillies up 3-2. I offered congratulations to the fans in red sitting nearby and continued to watch the game. This is when things got a little weird.

Some guy in an Chase Utley jersey turned around and told me to “sit down, haha!” As a UCLA alumni, I like Utley & asked the gentleman in the Utley jersey if he knew where Chase went to school (UCLA). He deftly replied that he “didn’t give a shit” and “was a real fan” pointing to the Phillies logo tattooed on his forearm in the middle of a swirl of other designs.

I probably should have left things alone, but couldn’t resist & mentioned to my new friend (and the rest of the section) that I knew all about real Philadelphia fans, and how they boo Santa Claus and intentionally vomit on 11-year old girls. Strangely, he didn’t have a response…

Things were quiet for an inning or so, but in the top of the 7th the Marlins started to rally (down 5-3) and Mike Stutes got up in the Phillies bullpen. For the record, I think Stutes is a fine pitcher. He’s a rookie with a respectable 3.69 ERA and records almost a strikeout per inning; a first place team entrusts him to pitch with a lead late in games, so obviously he’s got some skills.

However, Jack Daniels and I felt like telling Stutes he had stupid long hair and asking him if he got paid enough to get a real hair cut.

How could I NOT say anything to this goof-ball?

This earned me a couple dirty looks, but I was totally unprepared for what happened next.

A mousey woman in a Phillies cap a couple rows in front of me, who I put at around 50yrs old, was sitting between an elderly man (I assume her father) and a guy in his mid-20s (I assume her son).

The lady turned around, looked me right in the eyes, and said, “You’re gay.”

I said, “What?”

She was quick to make sure I heard her. “You’re gay, haha!!”

I couldn’t believe I was getting a schoolyard insult from Roy Munson’s landlady.

Some images you just can't erase from your mind

I really wasn’t sure what to do at this point. I’m not about to start yelling at a strange woman in public, but I really don’t tolerate ignorance too well, either. I asked her if she thought she was insulting me, but she just kept repeating “You’re gay!” and other fans in the section started telling me to leave it alone, so I relented & sat down feeling like I had wandered into a Michele Bachmann rally.

I was mostly subdued for the rest of the game, sad at the current state of sports-fan conduct in the US in 2011. Most everyone is aware of the Bryan Stow case, the San Francisco Giants fan who was beaten into a coma outside of Dodgers stadium opening day, as well as the shootings and beatings at the 49ers/Raiders preseason NFL game. These cases are the most sensational, but there are plenty of other incidents where “fans” cross the line and escalate the situation to violence when someone is simply rooting for a team wearing different colors.

He shouldn't have let her throw the first punch

I’ll admit it, I’m a huge fan myself & a big baby when it comes to my teams. I shed tears when the Steelers lost to the Dolphins in the AFC Championship game after the 1984 season, pretending to look for food in the refrigerator so my mom wouldn’t know I was crying. I woke up with Jose Cuervo tattoos (temporary, thank goodness) after the Pirates lost in the NLCS for the third year in a row in 1992, and I had a decent-sized tantrum after the A’s lost in game 5 of the ALDS for the 4th year in a row in 2003.

However, my MO while at games is to have fun. You root for your team, I’ll root for my team; at the end, whoever wins, we shake hands and go back to our regular lives. Razzing is part of the fun, and I enjoy giving it to opposing players and fans.

My rule, though, is to keep it PG – the ballpark should be a family environment (sorry, Roger McDowell), so watch your language and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your own kids/nieces/nephews to hear. If you’re an adult and really can’t handle your team losing or being “disrespected” then you’ve got some bigger issues to deal with.

Some Phillies fans are better than others

Bad behavior at sporting events is often (correctly) attributed to a combination of mob mentality and alcohol abuse. However, another important factor should be part of the conversation: Americans have a big problem with losing.

I don’t know if sports fans are taking their cue from politicians, where party agendas now seem to totally outweigh the collective good, but in my opinion it’s really OK if you don’t finish “No. 1” each and every time as long as you’ve given your best effort.

Not to get all Confucius on you, but if more people were to understand that the journey is more important than the finish line, things might be a bit better at ballparks and in politics.

Or your team just shouldn’t suck.

One Comment

  1. I routinely sport an Orioles cap to games, I totally get ya…stay loyal in the face of adversity…ignore the ignorant…don’t get arrested, beat down or thrown out of the game over some clueless lady…