A few weeks back, my wife, The [as I call her] Thoroughly Awesome Ms. Crums, asked me what I wanted to do for Father’s Day. She didn’t have to wait more than a couple of seconds for my answer…
“What do I want?” I replied. “The Mariners are in town to play the A’s. We are GOING to see the game on Sunday.” Which also happened to be on Father’s Day.
Anyone who knows me also knows that I am a diehard and long-suffering Seattle Mariners fan. I can’t help myself. Just go here, to my About page, and you can read that for yourself, as well as see me in one of my finer scenes from college. I grew up with this team in the Bad Early Years, cheered with it through the Short Good Period, and am stuck with them now. Even though I don’t live near Seattle, I still religiously follow the Mariners on a daily basis and watch as many games as I can via MLB Extra Innings [a horror story involving that, which can be found here], and I even have the Mariners logo tattooed on my upper left arm. The fact that I got this done about a week before my wife and I got married says pretty much all you need to know about me, and the patience of my wife.
Now, with two little girls running around the house, Maddo, 4, and Little Sis, who is 2, getting to ballgames isn’t easy. I always make a point to go to the A’s season opener, whoever they are playing, and the last few years, that has been Seattle. I took Maddo to Opening Night at the Oakland Coliseum this season when the Mariners were in town, and the odds were more than good that that could have been the only game I would make it to this year.
But when I saw that Seattle would be back down here, and over a weekend, no less, I made a point that we all would be going to at least one of those games. And when I realized one of those games was on Father’s Day afternoon, what I knew would be a circus in our seats was sealed.
With the game set for 1:05, we headed out from home at about 11:30. We only live about five miles from the Oakland Coliseum, but since this place was built back in the 1960s craze of multi-use baseball/football concrete bowls next to highways, it always takes us close to a half hour to get there. Part of that is because I insist on driving through a section of East Oakland where I wouldn’t be caught out a night, and don’t feel that comfortable during the day, either, so that we can park in the nearby BART parking lot…Which “only” costs $8 for ballgame parking, as opposed to $20 for the Coliseum lot.
We wanted to get there early because there was some kind of free gnome/doll giveaway for the first 10,000 people there. Of course, we were Nos. 10,001 to 10,004 and were out of luck with the freebie. I’m always amazed at how the thought of getting anything, including stupid gnome make to look like one of the A’s players, will drive even the most-rational of people to act like refugees trying to get out on the last chopper out of Saigon in 1975.
And then I look at the line for garlic fries.
On our way to our seats, we decided to get a few things: a hot dog for Maddo, some popcorn for everyone and an $11 “souvenir cup” of soda for my wife. That’s right. Eleven bucks for 22 ounces of Pepsi in a plastic tumbler that someone is going to take home as a “souvenir” of their good times standing in line at the Oakland Coliseum. I can see it right there on the mantel with the chip off the Berlin Wall and family photo in front of the Grand Canyon.
We all sat down, and then Maddo and I got up because I needed a beer. Two, actually, and since that is the limit you are allowed to buy at one time, that’s what I intended to get. Maddo intended on getting anything she could get her hands on. Of course, we walked into one mass of confused fans only to backtrack our way into another one when we got to what had to be the second of the only two places to get garlic fries in the whole Coliseum. If you have never had garlic fries, trust me, you are missing out.
Missing out on waiting at least 20 minutes in line for them. Missing out on them possibly being cold when you get them. Missing out on paying at least $6.50 for those possibly cold fries. And missing out on an inning or two of baseball if you get up to get your fries in the middle of the game. Luckily, Maddo and I went before the first pitch, and besides, this was also the one stand I could find serving beer [$9 Kona Longboard Lagers, and a couple of other ones] that was more than the watered-down-water that is Bud and Bud Light, which was being served at every other stand.
Maddo and I got back to our seats just before the National Anthem, and it was not a minute too soon. Little Sis was climbing all over my wife, who looked like she had been through more of a crowd turmoil that either Maddo or myself. I took Little Sis for a while and gave her a box of apple juice. She sucked that down in about 17 seconds and began reaching for my beer, convinced that it was more Tree Top for her.
“Sorry, honey,” I said. “You can have this when you get to college and I don’t have to see it.”
For a while, things settled down. I mean, they settled down as well as they could for trying to watch a game while two midgets used my wife and I as a couple of jungle gyms while every other second clamoring, “I WANT MY HOT DOG!” or “I WANT SOME POPCORN!” or “I WANT THAT BAG OF COLORED, SPUN SUGAR BETTER KNOWN AS COTTON CANDY!”
It was OK for a bit because we had some room on either side of us. We could stretch out a little bit, and at least put our stuff on one of the empty seats. Seattle went up 2-0 early, Hisashi Iwakuma was pitching great, we were in the shade, and all was well.
And then the second inning started. And with it came the Latecomers.
You know who these people are. You go to a game, you have a little room next to you, the game starts and you think that you might just not end up completely crammed in like a feedlot cow. And then, about 45 minutes after the game starts, you see someone out of the corner of your eye. The people down the row from you start getting up to make way for this gang of four, which is inevitably loaded down with about $75 worth of ballpark food, try to shuffle between people’s knees and seatbacks and a landfill’s-worth of discarded food and drink containers.
They get up to you, you stand up, holding your kid in your arms, and they push and shove, nearly dripping nacho cheese sauce into your daughter’s hair, and not even coming close to muttering a single “Excuse me!” the whole time. The last one of the
bunch, the cheese-sauce dripper whom I assume is dad, is as big as John Goodman and Suge Knight together. He, of course, takes the seat next to your wife. And part of him rolls over the armrest into her. Not into her seat, but into her. Again, “Sorry,” or “Excuse me,” is anywhere within earshot.
But, hey…At least they choose to do this IN THE MIDDLE OF A PLAYER’S AT-BAT. One of the Cardinal Rules of Ballpark Etiquette is that you wait until between innings, or at least until the hitter is done, before you shove your way into your seat. You try to worm your way down a row of seats when a player is in the middle of batting because it makes it so the people who were on time and already sitting there end up having to get up and potentially miss something exciting happening.
Eventually, Maddo and I both needed to go to the bathroom, so I took my daughter into the Turkish-prison that is your typical ballpark men’s room. I won’t go into any other details except that Maddo’s assessment of the place was, “Boys are dirty!” Yes, they are honey. So stay away from them until you’re…Well, moving on…
I knew we needed some more stuff. So I got the $11 “souvenir” beer and $5.50 nachos combo for…Well, there was no combo discount. The $11 beer was $11 whether I ordered it alone or with the combo, and the $5.50 nachos were also $5.50 either way. The Oakland Coliseum doesn’t subscribe to the McDonald’s Extra Value Meal Slight Discount Way Of Doing Business, I guess.
Maddo wanted something to drink, so there went $6 for 32 ounces of lemonade, And soon after we got back to our seats, Maddo knocked the “souvenir cup” over and there went $6 and about 31 ounces of lemonade all over the floor around us, and onto the floor and shoes of at least one of the three [very gracious and very forgiving] women in front of us. And as far as I know that lemonade is still rolling down the Coliseum on its way to the visiting team’s bullpen right now.
Eventually, Oakland’s 40-year-old Goodyear Blimp of a pitcher, Bartolo Colon, began to master the Mariner hitters and Oakland’s own batters got the A’s up 4-2. By that time, we had made it through five innings, and the girls were starting to really lose their minds. Little Sis took it upon herself to even keep her mommy from watching the Mariners fall apart.
The fifth inning ended, and we headed for the parking lot. We got to my truck, turned the radio on, and it was 6-2, Oakland. The A’s began jacking home runs and the final score was Oakland: 10, Seattle: 2. The A’s are good this year and my team lost. And when I heard the final score, I was glad we left the real carnage behind on the ballfield, along with that quart of lemonade all over the Coliseum floor.