SEVENTH INNING STRETCH
Itís the seventh inning. Ironically I just had my seventh beer. Through my blurred vision I peer out from my leftfield seat. I ponder what it would feel like to leap over this rail, sprint onto the field, and dive into home plate.
Surely this capacity crowd of 55,000 New Yorkers wouldnít mind. Because when you analyze it, people donít attend these events to watch a group of athletes toss a ball around. Or to watch some well trained athletes compete. Whatís the axiomatic reason people attend these events?
Itís to be entertained. So the question isnít why. Itís why not.
I recall my uncle in Missouri telling me about his experience at such a venture. He explained in his inebriated voice how the cheers of the crowd engulfed his mind with a sense of euphoric vision. As the cheers increased, he swore he was about to be hit with some great revelation. Unfortunately the police dragged him off the field before the discovery, and gave him a terrible beating.
I ponder what compelling mystery did he nearly unlock?
I put down my seventh beer and start to have doubts. The bright red railway flashes like a traffic signal. Itís a barrier separating fans like myself from the iconic few who are
allowed onto the quasi-religious landscape. Iím also reminded of a recent ESPN article saying that laws are being enacted to include not just a fine, but prison for fans who run on the field.
Could this be because they are hiding something? I feel obliged to finish the task my uncle started. Yet the thought of prison frightens me.
But through my blurred vision I gaze at home plate. Itís hypnotic. Beckoning.
The crowd is singing, ďTake me out to the Ballpark.Ē I stare at the plate. It seems to be whispering, ďTake me,Ē ďTake me.Ē
In seconds I jump the rail and dash down the crisp green field. Most observers might believe that the seven beers I consumed this inning are contributing to my behavior. That would be a baseless accusation. To be precise, itís the seven beers along with the five shots of vodka I had in the stadium parking lot before the game.
First the crowd appears stunned. Soon they understand whatís occurring and roar in approval. Growing up as a kid I recalled witnessing this behavior during games and being appalled at such actions. Iíve grown up since then and can see how immature my thoughts were.
Exhilaration engulfs my senses, along with a sense of intrusion as I tread onto this ground which has been consigned for a privileged minority. The hot night air lifts my blond hair as my 195 pound frame races towards the hallowed target. Beneath my feet I feel the pristine green grass cut to uniform specifications, with a precision rivaling master hairstylist Jose Eber.
Into the infield I dash like a common street urchin barging into the heart of Buckingham Palace. (Torn jeans and all. I shouldíve rented a tuxedo for this occasion.) The aligned bases glaring out like white diamonds awe my senses. I have an up close view of a realm constructed for god-like people we idolized since childhood.
With my pulse ricocheting off the scale, my objective appears in range. As I dive into home plate with a reddish-brown cloud of dust I canít help but recall my uncle in Missouri telling me the story about how he tried the same thing during that rainy game in St. Louis, with the help of a lot more alcohol Iím proud to say.
I also fondly remember his story about how his grandfather interrupted the first ever World Series by barreling into the catcher at home plate, giving him a minor concussion in the process. Ever since then they have been required to wear masks and chest protectors. And Iím not going to even mention what his great-grandfather did to make the league require players to wear cups.
I dust myself off before the cheering crowd, raising my arms in triumph. So here I am the latest in line from a field crashing tradition. As I hear the cheers of the audience increase, I start to notice a change. The landscape starts to look less refined. Apparently my uncle was right all along. I feel ashamed to admit it but, I previously assumed he just had too much to drink that day.
My feelings of exhilaration dissipate as I see my worst nightmare, New York City Police officers. In Teutonic rhythm, advancing from dark partitioned concrete. Objective: to crush my joyful intrusion onto this Athletic Eden. I think if I just surrendered now I could declare a moral victory. I clearly outdid my uncle by a long shot. But no, I am on a mission. I break right avoiding my captors, sprinting to centerfield, leaving the garbled sounds of cursing law enforcement echoing through the night air.
There are no reins as I accelerate on this sacred field. Seconds later I perform another head first dive in dead center. For a while I decide to lay posturing on my stomach, limbs outstretched like a beached albacore on Chesapeake Bay. Iím doing it with style. The cheers of the crowd are now nearing deafening decibels. The vibrating noise echoes in my skull, I see the bases and pitchers mound appearing more oblique. I lift myself up and see a dozen officers closing in from every angle. All escape routes are cut off. I am being enveloped, like Hannibalís Roman opponent at Cannae.
All rationality tells me to surrender. But I see the blue-collar fans in the audience, I imagine how hard they worked to enjoy a night of entertainment. And more importantly I am so close to unlocking this mystery. If I could just make this audience cheer a little louder. I hear the slurred voice of my uncle beckoning me onward like a Homeric Greek Siren.
Theyíre now within five yards, I notice a clump of dry dirt in my left pocket, an alluvial deposit from my legendary slide into home plate. Slowly, I move my hand down. One finger at a time disappears into my pocket. As they approach I quickly turn, and with a coiled motion, I throw a lateral grapeshot of refined earth into stunned faces.
Amid a chorus of gags and coughs through flaring nostrils, I break the human envelopment. Staggering forward in my dirt stained t-shirt, I prepare for a stunt that will bring these spectators to their feet, and solve this mystery.
With my heart pounding like a jackhammer, I leap onto my hands, and do three awkward cartwheels. I then finish with a pathetic attempt at a back-flip. Upon landing my knees buckle, soon Iím flat on my back.
Gazing up towards the heavens, I hear the crowd erupt like the volcanic explosion at Thera. I see a blinding flash. Maybe itís the stadium lights, but I am now struck by a revelation more profound than on the road to Damascus. Stunning in its logic.
I hear the crowd cheering louder than they have all season. Here I am, a common person , who never played in a Major League game. Yet I was still able to entertain these fans better than all these professionals.
I just exposed their fraud in front of 55,000 duped fans. These arenĎt special people, but for over a century weíve idolized these ďimmortalsĒ by paying a portion of our salaries in a ritualistic tribute to sit in this shrine just to watch them make physical motions. I exposed this charade with just a couple slides and a back-flip.
With this sudden revelation I look at the grassy field. It no longer appears pristine, itís no better than the lawn in my backyard after I water it and run my lawn mower across it. (Of course if I watered and mowed my lawn more than once a year I wouldíve noticed this a lot sooner.) Looking infield I notice the once ornate bases. They now look like someone aligned some pizza boxes into a quartet, the pitchers mound reminds me of an obtuse anthill I once saw in Kentucky.
Most pathetic of all are the athletes in the dugout. Standing exposed . Theyíre currently laughing their heads off, but exposed nonetheless.
When this revelation spreads, their hypnotic sway over our society will end. More importantly children will no longer view them as role models. In fact I would make a
better role model, Iíve never been indicted for murder, suspended for choking my coach, or fined for using obscene language, like many athletes. My only weakness is that I might have a slight tendency to over-drink.
Picking myself up a jolting thought paralyzes me. Many great leaders have attempted to expose conspiracies from these powerful establishments. Most have been silenced through tragic means, such as assassination, imprisonment, exile, and in the case of my uncle, probation along with mandatory attendance at an alcohol clinic. I must escape to herald this new ideology!
Too late! Before Iím upright a dozen police grab me. They rush my stumbling frame towards the exit tunnel. The crowd is furious. They begin to chant, ďlet him go,Ē ďlet him go,Ē ďlet him go.Ē
Despite my capture these guardians canít undo my accomplishments, which will storm across the country like an unstoppable tidal wave.
I notice many people in the crowd have figured out theyíve been duped all these years. I see several parents exiting with their kids, they glare at me with disgusted looks. If I could read their minds Iím sure Iím being thanked for exposing this ruse to them.
Before Iím shoved into the tunnel I see a contingent of spectators running towards me in the stands. Gold waves of liquid cascade from circular plastic as they yell encouragements. Nothing can discourage them as they knock over popcorn and peanut vendors, sending concessions exploding like cluster bombs. Before I disappear they wave, and I begin to think I just witnessed the extreme right wing of my movement beginning to form.
The initial euphoria of being an idol fades, as for the next twenty minutes I wilt from being interrogated under a hot lamp. I am isolated in a thick concrete bunker, away from the joyful cheers of my fans.
I feel sick, my eyes start blinking, and my head twitches. At first I think itís the seven beers along with the five shots of vodka I had which is the cause, but then I dismiss that theory. Instead I believe itís the seven beers, the five shots of vodka, combined with the half bottle of Jack Danielís Whiskey I had at home this morning.
There is some good news. It seems one of the officers is starting to feel more compassionate towards me upon seeing my condition. Apparently heís trying to give me the New York Police Departments interpretation of the Heimlich maneuver, which is a couple of hard knees into my ribcage. Writhing in agony I threaten to report him to the mayor if he doesnít use a less painful method. Of course I lose all faith in humanity when my vision clears and I notice that this is the mayor of the city.
The last flicker of hope begins to fade, I feel myself succumbing to their inquisition. I am about to give in, and reveal my missions objective to curtail their hold on the people of this city.
But I recall my uncleís stories of our great relatives field crashing exploits. One of them in particular stands out above the rest. It gives me the inspiration to fight on.
Itís a tale he says has been passed down to him through the centuries about an intoxicated Roman ancestor who charged out onto the field during a gladiatorial contest at the Colosseum. The unfortunate relative was immediately devoured by a horde of
ferocious lions. Of course the bloodthirsty audience felt it was the most thrilling event of the day even for a matinee, and gave him a ten minute standing ovation.
In the long term the lions didnít fare well either. Half of them died of alcohol poisoning after ingesting the saturated body of our ancestor. The ones that did survive had to have their stomachs pumped and later bore a bountiful quantity of offspring that became alcoholics.
My uncle fanatically insists this is the main reason Christianity survived in Western Society since most of the Christians that were thrown to the lions after that time were easily able to maneuver away from their drunk, uncoordinated attackers and escape through the tunnels where they were released.
In fact for the past several years my uncle has been lobbying the Vatican to bestow upon this ancestor the status of martyrdom under the name Saint 90 proof. Next week he plans to fly down to Rome for the fifth time to push this request through.
This uplifting story endows me with the resolve to survive the inquisition. Unfortunately, refusing to capitulate seals my fate. The article on ESPN proves correct, I am led away in handcuffs, down a cold runway to disgrace.
My head lowers. I stagger with dejected regrets, I see no light where Iím headed. Darkness hovers over white concrete, shadowing a seemingly bleak future, once so promising. (I thought they would at least have the decency to refund the five dollars I paid for my parking ticket.)
What transpires in the next seconds can be summed as a miracle. From behind a concrete column I see the intoxicated fans I encountered before I entered the tunnel. My
extremist right wing faction has organized a rescue mission!
The dozen crusaders leap on the three police officers, removing a set of keys, and ending my Promethean torment by unlocking my shackles. They shove me towards the exit tunnel yelling, ďrun!Ē I run, but my decimated body makes it difficult. My sweat drenched clothes gravitate downward. My lungs stretched to capacity are near their elastic limits.
Soon I see the light at the exit. Like an oil-less tin-man I drag my obliterated frame across the parking lot. I gasp for air. Iíd pay a kingís ransom for an oxygen mask, or a liver transplant.
As I fall into my car, I canít help but think of those brave apostles who saved me. No doubt they will be overpowered by the re-enforcements I saw approaching. And likely share a fate meant for myself.
After I drive onto the freeway, I decide to call my uncle on my cell-phone to make sure to lobby for some kind of martyr status for those brave followers beside our ancestor when he flies down to Rome next week. I just hope this time the Italian authorities will allow him off the plane.
As for myself I have greater responsibilities. I need to plan my next engagement. But where? I do recall purchasing tickets to the NBA Playoffs a week ago. And the last time I was at Madison Square Garden that parquet floor looked pretty inviting.
By the way the Yankees won the game 7-3.
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