Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Good Fries
When the team you root for is left home during October the true frustration of a sub-par season begins to painfully nip at your toes and whisper profanities into your ear. That’s because watching good teams fight for the crown in the playoffs makes one realize just how bad – and uncontending – your team really was.
As a veteran Chicago White Sox victim and apologist, this past baseball season was about as fun using the treadmill right after Chris Christie. The Sox had talent, charm and opportunity but were never really that good and seeing teams like Detroit and Texas do their thing this fall only makes that more obvious.
I can sum up the South Side season with one brief but humiliating anecdote. I attended my final baseball game of ’11 on Friday, September 23 as the Sox hosted the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field. Most years, watching the Sox take on the Royals in September is analogous to screaming at a rock during a rainstorm hoping it will sing or give you a dollar. And this game wasn’t much different. The Sox looked listless, lifeless and achingly Cub-like as they got jacked by K.C.’s sunshine boys 11-1. At least it didn’t rain.
Well, actually it did rain a little.
In the fourth inning with the Sox trailing 3-0 I stepped away from the carnage because the best way to salve pain is to eat a personal pizza accompanied by seasoned curly fries. I got my fare and heard some commotion from the 21,744 silly souls in attendance and thought nothing of it, figuring it might have been a Bill Almon sighting, but nothing more. When I returned to my seat I was informed that Salvador Perez of the Royals had hit a three-run home run and the ball landed about three feet from my empty seat. “It would have bounced up and hit you in the chest,” my companions teased me. With my bad luck and lack of talent it probably would also have bounced off my face and hands a few times as well but since I was sitting in section Ghost Town there wouldn’t have been much competition and I probably would have eventually come up with it: my first home run ball.
The guy who did get the ball, a few rows behind us, foolishly pulled a Wrigley and threw it back on the field and was promptly ejected…but his girlfriend stayed for the rest of the inning. Maybe she was waiting for me to offer her a curly fry.
I went home that night, peeled off my Harry Chappas jersey, (just kidding, got rid of that one years ago) flipped on the laptop and confirmed the cruel truth as the replays showed the ball bouncing around like an orphan electron looking for a home in front of my empty seat…with my fat ass nowhere to be seen.
What would a Salvador Perez home run ball have meant to me? Well, maybe not as much as it would have meant to Mr. Perez, a rookie catcher who hit only three of them this season. Hundreds of people have Barry Bonds home run balls on their shelf but I would have been in a fraternity of three with a Salvador Perez dinger on the mantle. Such sadness. Such fleeting opportunity followed by such enduring exasperation and vacuity.
The most embarrassing part about this whole tale is this sort of thing has happened to me before. In 1989 I sat in Chicago’s Soldier Field as the Bears hosted the San Diego Chargers in a preseason game just a few days after the Bears had traded Jim McMahon to the Chargers. McMahon wasn’t expected to play and since preseason football can be about as fun as regular season volleyball, I skipped out to get a hot dog and was gone just long enough to miss McMahon getting in for a few plays in what had to be one of the strangest debuts/returns a player has ever made. So, if you want something good to happen, send me away.
October taunts all those who miss their chance as it opens the door to winter where cold vestiges of failure await to taunt you until spring.
But damn, that pizza was good.