[Editor’s Note: Brian Murphy is absolutely devastated that Tony Romo broke up with Jessica Simpson before attending her Barbie-themed birthday party, thus depriving Murphy of a lifetime’s worth of Romo Ken doll jokes. So while he spends the week sulking, we bring you a special guest blog post by Kelly Goldston.]
I consider myself a good American. I vote, I eat fast food and I wear my navy and white polka-dotted skirt on the Fourth of July. AMERICAN. However, unlike most good Americans, I have long harbored a strong and unhealthy fear of baseball. This is just one of many ways in which I identify with Amber from Clueless, whose plastic surgeon advises her to stay away from any activity where balls fly past her nose.
My history with professional baseball was limited to two experiences until this past week, when I was invited to a Chicago White Sox game with my boyfriend and his parents. It should be noted that this was to be the all-important first meeting between myself and Boyfriend’s parents. As Boyfriend proposed this idea to me, I heard the words “White Sox,” quietly processed that that meant baseball, and the edges of my brain-screen began to blur …
Flashback: 1998. I was 13 years old, awkward as the day is long, and wondering if I would ever learn to French. (Give it a few years, little Kelly, and stop reading Cosmo NOW. None of those tips are real. Especially nothing involving an ice cube.) So when my friend Morgan asked if I’d like to come to a Cincinnati Reds game with her family, I jumped at the chance. A Reds game! How glamorous! This sounded like a magical place where awkward girls can blend in with bouncy-ponytailed cheerleader types with sophomore boyfriends who may or may not have spent time in juvy! I agreed with cautious enthusiasm and to the Reds game I went.
Cut to midway through the game. I was struggling to learn the rules of this bizarre sport when a ball was hit that began traveling toward my section. Everyone around me – beer guzzling fans in front, Morgan and her family to my sides – stood up to catch it. I remained seated, paralyzed as I fixated on the ball. Like a slow-motion bullet in an action movie, I saw my fate clearly. The ball knows, I realized. It has found the single person most frightened of it in the stadium, and it is coming for me.
Everyone around me jumped and stretched as it became clear that the ball was headed right for us, and I closed my eyes to receive my blow. Sure enough – BAM. I opened my eyes to see the wayward baseball wedged firmly between my side and my arm. Morgan screamed and jumped up and down. “OHMYGOSH, YOU CAUGHT IT!!!” she cried. If “caught” meant “was terrifyingly and painfully struck by,” then yes, I caught the ball. All I could hope for in my little preteen brain was that this story would one day help me impress a boy.
Back to present day. I have a boy to impress! More importantly, a boy’s family to impress. So this past Tuesday, Boyfriend and I headed down to the South Side for the Sox game. We located his parents, who were warm and delightful, especially once they had my promise that I’m not a Cubs fan. I told them my charming little “Sports Illiterate Attacked by Foul Ball” story, and it went over well.
What went over better, though, was that throughout the game, no fewer than four foul balls came within two sections of us, although the family swore up and down that no ball had ever come that close before. Each time, I gasped and instinctively clung to Boyfriend’s sweet mother, whose top-notch maternal instincts led her to shield me from the object of my terror. I choose to believe that this inadvertent clinging was more endearing than obnoxious, and if it wasn’t, I DON’T WANT TO KNOW. The surprising surplus of foul balls near us earned me the reputation of “Ball Magnet,” a nickname which I hope will not stick with Boyfriend’s family. Or anyone.
Midway through the game, between leaps into Boyfriend’s mom’s lap, a miraculous thing happened: I REALIZED I WAS HAVING A KICK-ASS TIME! You guys, baseball is FUN! One team gets some points and then the other one gets some other points and it just keeps going! And when they get a home run, they shoot off fireworks and everyone hugs each other! It’s EXCITING!!! Also, you get to eat hot dogs and buy commemorative crap, like novelty pens shaped like baseball bats. YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!!!
So now that I am a full-blown, super-legit Baseball Fan, I feel that I must share my newfound knowledge with the less fortunate. My ball magnetism (shut it) got me through this baseball encounter, but I realize that many other sports-wary ladies may not be as blessed as I in terms of attracting balls (still shut it) and will need some pointers.
1. Do not get one of those foam fingers. I wanted one real bad, but Boyfriend vetoed it. I guess that’s not cool. Or more likely, he just knew I would use it at inappropriate times, like to cheer on my favorite hot dog vendor, who inexplicably peddled his meaty wares in a brash Brooklyn accent (“Hot dwaaaags! I gotcha hot dwags right hee-uh!”).
2. When in doubt, yell at decision-makers. I think this is usually refs, but in baseball there’s also other guys, like an umpire and then some other guys who stand around bases and aren’t called anything except curse words (… or maybe they’re refs too. I don’t know, I’m not a scientist.). Wait ’til everyone starts booing, then get as angry as you possibly can. Personally, I start by imagining that NBC just canceled 30 Rock, and then I let emotions take over. I improvised with “What, are you BLIND?!,” and that was generally well-received. However, “Tina Fey is the Gilda Radner of our time,” not so much.
3. If you don’t know what people are chanting, just yell out the vowels. “Ahh-ee, ahh-ee!” is equally as effective as “Pau-ly, Pau-ly!” Similarly, “Ayyy ee ow oo uh ahhhhh ayyyyyy” works for singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” but if you don’t know that, we have more serious problems and I would recommend feigning severe illness or death.
4. Don’t worry, like I did, that chanting someone’s name when they come to bat will put undue pressure on them and cause them to crumble, fail and develop a deep-seated shame leading to a lifetime of unhappiness. More likely: They’ll hit a home run and your boyfriend will hug you. Yay!
Amber from Clueless: Great American? Outfit says yes. Fear of balls says no.
5. Don’t clap when the other team does something good, even if you feel bad for them because they’ve been getting booed all night. If this is difficult, pretend they’re all someone you hate. Like, a whole team full of Matthew McConaughey’s, maybe. Or personal trainers from your gym. Or skanky female bartenders who won’t bring you drinks because they’re draped all over frat-tastic dude patrons at the other end of the bar. AHH, I HATE EVERYONE! AND THE CLEVELAND INDIANS WILL BEAR THE BRUNT OF MY RAGE!
And there you have it! Five foolproof tips to faking your way through baseball until you develop a true passion for the game like I did. Not only will these pointers make you more tolerable at sporting events, but they might make your dude’s fam like you and they’ll DEFINITELY make you a better American. You can thank me later.
Now I have to go watch a baseball game, because that is what a true fan I am. Unless the season is over. Or maybe they only play on weekends? Either way. U-S-A!
Kelly Goldston wishes she were Courtney Enlow. Instead, she is a Chicago-based retail professional who occasionally writes things like grocery lists or guest columns. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.