For Father’s Day

Just for today, I’m posting this relevant piece from my forthcoming book, Mets Fan 


            Whenever I go to a Mets game with my daughter, we arrive an hour and a half before the scheduled first pitch.  Not an hour.  Not two hours.  An hour and a half.  It’s funny how, with every person with whom you go to a game, there are specific rituals and specific rules.  When I meet other people to go to a game, it’s not an hour and a half.  With my daughter it is always an hour and a half. 

            Arriving an hour and a half before a game, we can choose where to park our car.   The stadium lot has more cars in it than you might think, but it is not crowded yet.  We park in a space that is close enough to an exit that will lead us easily back to the Whitestone Bridge, that doesn’t have any visible signs of glass, broken or otherwise, that is not too close to some guys playing catch, and not too close to anyone cooking hot dogs on a hibachi.   We park so that we can just drive forward and don’t have to back up to get out.

            We get out of the car and walk to our entrance.  We usually enter through gate “B” because although our seats are normally closest to “C,” we get to “B” first and we like to get into the stadium as soon as we can, because as long as we are outside of the stadium, we are outside of the stadium.   I always buy my tickets online now and we always get Loge Reserved as close to home plate as possible. 

            My daughter offers her bag to be searched and we do the thing where the cheerful stadium security people wave the wands around us.  I don’t understand why my watch, wallet, keys, and shoes will always make a metal detector at an airport go off but they never make one of those wands do anything different.  So be it.

            We present our printed-out tickets to the old guys who take the tickets.  They look like the same old guys who took the tickets when I was a kid, but they’re not.  We go into the stadium, and then depending upon what we have negotiated in advance, we either visit the Mets store or we do not.  If we don’t, and we normally don’t, we go right to the kosher hot dog stand near section 9 on the Loge level.  We’re not kosher, but these are the best hot dogs you can get in the stadium.  They are absolutely incredible, real, all-beef, kosher deli hot dogs.  I get two hot dogs with sauerkraut and a potato knish.  She gets a hot dog with nothing on it and a knish.  We get one of those big Diet Pepsis to share.  Then we go and get ketchup and napkins.  She likes ketchup on her hot dogs, to my infinite chagrin.  I should mention that my daughter is now a vegetarian, and she’s rather strict about it.  But this ritual of us getting kosher hot dogs at the Met game goes back many years.  It is the only exception my daughter makes to her vegetarianism, and she makes it with a real seriousness.  Many things are important in life, but some things must take precedence over other things.

            We take our food to our seat, and set up the Diet Pepsi in a place of honor so that it will not spill.  She handles the delicate business of getting the ketchup on her hot dog without getting it all over her.  I transfer the sauerkraut from the little plastic bowls to my hot dog.  And once we have everything where it should be, where it will not spill and make a mess, we start to eat and we watch and we enjoy being in the stadium an hour before the game will start. 

            We talk.  And we always have things to talk about even though we have just spent an hour and a half talking in the car as we drove down.  Our talks on the drive down are wonderful.  We expect to talk, as we’ve always talked on these rides, about serious things.  As soon as we get into the car in Connecticut, we are ready for our serious conversation and we have it and it lasts until we get within sight of Shea.  As soon as we see the stadium from the Whitestone Expressway, we are there, and that conversation we were having reaches a natural end.  When we get inside the stadium, the topic shifts to baseball.   As we eat our kosher baseball lunch or supper in the stands, we talk about how much we love baseball and how much we love the Mets and how cool and bright the stadium looks.  We usually go at night, because both my daughter and I are complete and total suckers for the way the stadium looks at night.  We watch the crowd come in.  We watch the opposing team finish up batting practice.  We make comments about people.  We see and hear the planes overhead.  We pay a kind of desultory attention to whatever pre-game ceremonies or awards or performances or events they have.   And when we’re long done with the food, with the unfinished gigantic Diet Pepsi tucked way back under my seat so that it will not get knocked over if I have to suddenly jump up, it is finally time for the National Anthem.  We enjoy our sense of being Americans at a baseball game.  She always comments on how the anthem has been performed.  She takes voice lessons and her great dream is to someday sing the Star Spangled Banner before a game at Shea.   We sit down and the game begins.

            My daughter welcomes each Met to the plate with a genuinely loud high-pitched non-verbal holler, that you also hear a magnified version of any time a Met does something really good.  She is totally into the game and she knows all the players and has her own very positive sense of their skills and their character.   Don’t tell her I told you this, but she really isn’t that much of a fan.  At least not in the way I was at her age and still am.  She is completely indifferent to statistics and she never watches or listens to a game unless I am.  If there’s a game on and there’s a rerun of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” she will choose “Queer Eye” every time.  But when she is watching the game with me, she is totally into it.  I think she thinks that paying attention to the Mets is an important link she has with me.  She is already very sentimental about the fact that we’ve gone to all of these games together.  I can’t help but think of how the number of games I will go to with just her, when she’s still at home in our house, is pretty small.  It can probably be counted on the fingers of two hands.  This makes all the time we share at the stadium enormously valuable and meaningful.  But it happens in real time and it is such a fun thing to do, you don’t want to get too maudlin about it.  It would ruin the experience.

            I also think my daughter does baseball on her own terms.  Fine.  She’s really into drama and it seems to me as if she experiences the game as if it were a dramatic production.  She likes the tense moments, the amazing things that are done, the way the individual players’ characters show through in what they do.  She loves to cheer and applaud.  She loves the stuff on the Diamond Vision.  She always cheers wildly for our section color in the plane or car race, even though she knows that I think it is stupid.  She has an uncanny ability to actually pick which hat has the baseball under it at the end of the shell game.  She stands and waves her hands for the t-shirts.  She wishes there were more human waves.  I wish there were less.  She looks for and is very happy when she sees Cow-Bell Man.  She always shouts “Lets Go Mets” when she is prompted to do so. 

            We have so much fun.  Even when they lose.  Even if the game is absolutely terrible.  Don’t tell the Mets, but normally when my daughter and I go to a game a Shea, they lose, and often something really disastrous happens.  When they win, though, and you get to go down the ramps in a really happy crowd, there’s nothing like it.  We get to the car as soon as we can.  We nose out slowly, letting people walk by us, being charitable to cars trying to get into our line.  We get onto the Whitestone Expressway.  She knows and I know that we now have another memory and that nothing lasts forever.  If she has energy we’ll make up stupid songs and do the kind of dumb and repetitive improvised comic routines that my wife is glad to know we share with each other but definitely doesn’t want to be around to hear.  If she’s tired, she’ll sleep.  And I’ll just sit and soak in my happiness, coming back from a ballgame with my wonderful daughter on a quiet highway with the dashboard lights and the hum of the car.

©Dana Brand 2006

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