Sunday, September 25, 2016

My 2,500th Post: How to Watch a Game With Me

This is my 2,500th published post.

Number 1: September 26, 2007, titled "The Big Premiere," introducing the blog. The post was not about any subject in particular.

Number 100: December 10, 2008, "Oh, Say, Can You CC? Yes, We Can! And Flash In the Hall," about the Yankees signing CC Sabathia as a free agent, and Yankee Legend Joe "Flash" Gordon being elected by the Veterans Committee to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Number 500: November 10, 2010, "Jeter Deserved His Gold Glove." Yes, he did.

I had listed my post of May 17, 2012, as "My 1,000th Post: Top 10 Events That Defined This Era." But that was counting all posts listed in my blog, including those that had, for whatever reason, not yet been published.

The actual Number 1,000, as it turned out: June 9, 2012, "Yankees Bring Santana Down to Earth," about a 9-1 Yankees win over The Other Team and their "ace," The Great Johan Santana.

Number 1,500: January 10, 2014, "Baseball Hall-of-Famers By Team," a piece I update every year. That year, the new inductees (via the Writers' Association) were Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

Number 2,000: August 7, 2015, "CC and Ells Bounce Back, Beat The Scum." Always good to have a Yankee victory over the Boston Red Sox to report.

Now, Number 2,500: September 25, 2016: "How to Watch a Game With Me." This is a takeoff on my "How To Be a (Name of Local Team) Fan In (Name of City)" series.

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First, note where the game will be: Live, in a bar, or in a private home. There will be different rules for each.

If It's Live 

I will dress for the game. If it's Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, I will wear my cap. I have many caps, acquired over 30 years of adult sports fandom, but there's 2 that get regular usage: A cap for regular usage, and a cap I use only for gamedays, which is going to be considerably cleaner.

If it's the National Hockey League's New Jersey Devils, I'll wear a cap and my jersey with my name on it. Remember, they can never trade you, or choose not to re-sign you to save money. And you don't retire. Players come and go, but your fandom is forever. So having your own name on the back isn't stupid or childish, it's a badge of honor.

If it's the football team or the basketball team at Rutgers University, I have a cap and a sweatshirt.

I have several shirts of English Premier League team Arsenal Football Club, including a throwback from their 1971 "Double" season, which I wore when they came to America to play a friendly against the New York Red Bulls. Which one I would wear if I ever actually went to London remains to be decided.

I will not paint any part of my body. I painted my face for 1 high school basketball game in 1986, and regretted it. I won't do it again. I once asked a Rutgers student painted from the waist up, head and hair included, how long it took to get it done. He said it was 20 minutes. That's nuts. They called me "Crazy Mike" in high school, but I was never that crazy, and I certainly am not now.

There is only one way to go to the game, and that's on the Subway. If the city in question doesn't have one, a light rail system will do. If it doesn't have that, either, I will make the sacrifice of going on a bus.

I like to arrive early, and explore the venue, including any feature they may have such as the Yankees' Monument Park. A team hall of fame, statues, things like that. I also want to know where the best place to get food is within the stadium or arena, and where the closest restroom is to my seat. I will want to take care of "output," then "input," before the first pitch/kickoff/tipoff/faceoff/opening whistle. Once the game begins, I want my food tray in my lap and my drink in the cupholder. This way, I don't have to wait until halftime (or, in the case of hockey, the 1st or 2nd intermission) to get my lunch/dinner. If I still need something, I can use that time for a snack or an additional drink, or an additional trip to the can, and probably spend less time on line.

I usually don't drink beer at a live game. It's not just the ridiculous prices that the concessionaires charge. I generally don't like beer. There are maybe 5 or 6 brands that I can drink without making a face. And Budweiser is not one of them. Nor is Bud Light. Certainly not Coors Light. I once tried to type that it was "barley-flavored water." It came out "barely-flavored water." I left it alone, because that's true, too! This will be very different if I'm at a bar or at someone's house.

I will stand for the National Anthem. I will not sing it, because I'm a lousy singer. The exception is if my team is playing a Canadian team. Then, I sing "O, Canada" -- in French. (Yes, I know the words, and, when translated into English, they're a bit different from the English version.) This pleases visiting Montreal Canadiens fans. It angers Toronto Blue Jays and Maple Leafs fans. Fans of the Edmonton Oilers and the other Canadian NHL teams just think it's weird.

It matters whether the game will involve one of my teams. If it does, I will be very much into it. The word "intense" comes to mind. If it doesn't, my attitude will be very different. I will be a lot calmer. Though I still reserve the right to question the decision of an umpire/referee. Out loud.

If it's a high school game, the standards are different. You don't yell things at a kid that you would yell at an adult. Although, since the regular readers of this blog generally aren't fellow EBHS graduates, we almost certainly won't be going to a high school sporting event together.

If it's college, then I don't care if they're not professionals: They're still adults, and poor play is fair game. I was once at a Rutgers game where the season started with a great deal of promise, and by the end of the 1st quarter, the entire season was effectively over. Complete incompetence. Now, I wasn't calling them "bums" or worse, but I was yelling that they had to block better, that they had to tackle better, that they had to hang onto the ball. And this woman across the aisle yells and me for not supporting the team. I had paid $50 to get into the game, and the least I should get for my money is the right to say what I want if I don't get competent product.

Any official -- umpire, referee, or whatever -- gets a light jab the 1st time in a game that he gets a call wrong. The 2nd time, I let him know he's getting on my nerves. The 3rd time and thereafter, he's a bum. Or worse. I might use the "Where's your father... " song from English soccer. But I will not use some of the harder language you might hear at one of those games. (More on that later.)

If the manager or head coach makes what I think is a dumb decision, I reserve the right to say so. If he turns out to be right, I'll admit it. If I turn out to be right, I reserve the right to say, "I told you so!" Or something harsher.

I will curb my language if there's kids around. If not, the "George Carlin words" may well fly.

I will not dance. Especially to "YMCA" or "Cotton Eye Joe." I hate those songs. And so should you.

I may follow the pattern of English soccer fans and adapt a song to a player. This usually doesn't work well. People heard me sing, "One Derek Jeter, there's only one Derek Jeter!" and unless they knew the Premier League, they'd wonder what the hell I was doing. One I miss doing, and the only thing I miss about former Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk, is singing, to the tune of "Jesus Christ, Superstar," "Kovalchuk! Kovalchuk! He scores a goal and the Rangers suck!"

If it's a Devils game, there will be "Rangers suck!" chants, and I will join in. But if it's a Yankee game, it's a little different. It's hard to say, "Red Sox suck!" So they usually say, "Boston sucks!" But I really like Boston as a city. It's the sports teams I hate. So I usually don't join in with "Boston sucks!" "Mets suck!" is another matter.

If it's a baseball game, and "God Bless America" is played during the 7th Inning Stretch, I will stand, but I will not sing along. It's been 15 years since 9/11, and it is well past time to retire this tradition. We go to sporting events to escape from the world at large, not to be reminded of it. The National Anthem before the game, I accept; being told to be patriotic when we should be cheering on our local team is overkill. But I do sing along with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The definitive version of that is not by an opera singer like the late Robert Merrill, but by the boozy old broadcaster Harry Caray, so if you sing it poorly, you're fine.

If the result seems clear early -- win or lose -- I will be considerably calmer than I will if the result is still in doubt until the end. Words like, "Oy vey," "I can't look" and "I can't take this" may be heard.

If it's an away game, much of what I've said thus far goes out the window. I would be "a guest in someone else's house." So the language would be calmer, even if the ump/ref really screws my team over (intentionally or otherwise). Unlike European and Latin American club soccer, all the visiting fans are not grouped together, so you have to be very careful.

And never, ever mock the host city. It's one thing, if you're at home, to say, "You still have to go live in Detroit!" or, "You still have to live under Mayor/Governor (name of corrupt idiot)!" It's another thing if you're surrounded by people proud of their City or their State. They will defend it, with words, possibly with fists.

At home, surrounded by fellow fans, I will gloat and, as they say in English soccer, "take the piss." On the road, I try to follow the advice of the great football coach Paul Brown: "When you win, say little. And when you lose, say less." Lose, suck it up; win, do not gloat. Smile, yes; enjoy it, yes; gloat in public, no.

What I do after the game depends largely on whether it's home or away. I usually like to leave the venue as soon as possible. Unless it's a Rutgers football game, in which case the traffic will be bad, with long lines for the Campus Buses. So I usually stay and watch the band's postgame show.

I never go to a local bar or restaurant after a home game, usually because I don't drive, and thus am at the mercy of the public transportation system. (Then again, if I did drive, that would limit my booze consumption -- which isn't a problem anyway, since I don't drink much.)

If it's an away game, again, I am at the mercy of public transportation, both short-distance (to the bus or train station) and long-distance (Greyhound or Amtrak). If it's a day game, I'm probably fine, and can stop off someplace first. In which case, I'm very careful not to rub it in if my team has won. If it's a night game, then we're talking an overnight trip, meaning I probably have to take the 1st possible conveyance back to whatever station I used to enter the city, and then sleeping on the bus or the train, and possibly taking the 1st bus of the morning out of Port Authority back home.

If It's In a Bar

Know the clientele. Get a feel for what you can say, and what you shouldn't say. A bar showing an English soccer game will have fans shouting obscenities that you wouldn't hear even at the toughest of baseball, football or hockey bars, like "cunt," "twat" and "wanker." This includes the women.

Knowing the clientele also involves knowing what percentage is rooting for my team. If I'm watching the Yankees, but there's also a Met game on, and there are Met fans in the place, I do as little as possible to engage those troglodytes. But if they try to get into it with me, and the Yankees end up winning, and the Mets end up losing, well, they're fair game.

When it comes to drinking, I pace myself. Soccer, I have a drink in each half. Baseball, 1 for every 3 innings. Hockey, 1 for every period. Football, 1 before the game to get me through the 1st quarter, 1 to get me through halftime, 1 to get me through the 2nd half. That way, I never have more than 1 full drink in my system.

I always pay my check before the game ends, so that, after the game, I can finish my meal and/or drink, and get out. No reason to stick around. Do more drinking? Suit yourself, but I don't need it.

If It's In a Home

Host's house, host's rules. I abide, no matter what. I sit where the host says to sit. If he/she doesn't say where, then any open seat is available. If the host offers a beer, and it's a brand I don't like (most of them), I will politely ask what my other options are. Usually, there will be a good one.

Again, I have to know the character of the "crowd." If they're intense people, I'll be intense. If they're more sedate, I will adjust. If any of the other guests are rooting for the other team, I'll have fewer people having my back than I would in a bar, let alone in a stadium or arena, in which case I'll let the scoreboard do the talking.

I have this nasty habit of overdoing it with chips and dip, and also with shrimp. Keep this in mind; it may cause you to rethink inviting me.

When the host says it's over, Yogi Berra lines aside, it's over. I would almost certainly have been driven by someone else, so we head for the car and go home.

Regardless of where the viewing is: If my team simply did not put up the effort, I will be angrier than if we were cheated by the opposition or the officials (or both). Take that into account.

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Watching a game with me could be a hazardous and/or exasperating experience. Or it could be fun. Or it could be all of the above.

You have been briefed, and warned.

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