Monday, July 12, 2004

The way it ought to be?

I'll admit it. I'm a baseball purist. When the word baseball is popping around in my head, James Earl Jones is the voice that's saying it.

So, when I recently got an invitation to go to watch a Northwoods League baseball game in Madison, I jumped at the chance. The town of Madison has an interesting baseball history, including having guys such as Jose Canseco pop through here (as well as a few strip clubs, I'm sure) when it was an Oakland A's minor league town.

Since then, quite a few franchises have come and gone. We've had the Madison Hatters, my personal favorite franchise name, as well as the Madison Black Wolf, and currently Madison is the home of the Mallards.

The Mallards are in an interesting league, as the teams are filled with college players that are just looking to get more experience and play every day. They're allowed to do this, as they don't get paid to be one of the "boys of summer". Sounds great, right? Over the past few years, I'd heard a great deal about all of the promotions that were being run to make this a great product for the fans. How could it go wrong?

My friend had gotten four free tickets for the game through some promotion, so we weren't out a cent to be at the game. The tickets were general admission, so we grabbed the best group of seats that allowed the four of us to sit together. We were on the 3rd base line, right behind the home dugout. It should have been a great place to watch a game.

That's when the wheels came off. Apparently the baseballs they were using were a premium item, and we found this fact out pretty quickly. After the first foul ball of the game, which happened in the first inning, we were informed via the public address system that if you caught a foul ball, you could take it to the concession stand to get a free Oscar Mayer hotdog. "Not a bad deal," I thought. I wouldn't take them up on that, but I could see how someone might think that getting free food would be a nice trade for a baseball. Then it started...

Foul ball.

"WEINER!" said the announcer

Foul ball.


Then it got even more odd.


"Vavavavavavava.... Wiener."

What?!? There isn't even a 'v' in Weiner. Honestly, he must have said weiner, or one of his more clever derivations of the word, at least 30 or 40 times throughout the game. It got to the point where that my friend that invited me started to cringe and then apologize each time there was a batter fouled one off.

After the 2nd inning, for some unknown reason, I decided to go for a hot dog. I made a short stop at the rest room and as I was walking in, I heard a man talking.

Let me try to explain something for the women in the listening audience. A men's room is a very quiet place. We don't talk to each other. We don't look at each other. If it were possible, without risking injury or an unfortunate bumping incident, we would get earplugs and a blindfold as we walk into a rest room so that we wouldn't have to talk to or see another man while we're taking care of our individual needs.

Without getting too graphic, which is probably not possible at this point but I must soldier on, he continued to talk while I was in the rest room.

"Get down there."

That's never a good sign. A small part of me felt bad for the man as we've all been there before or, then again, maybe we haven't. I'm still not sure what he was talking to (I have a few ideas. Send me an email if you're curious) but regardless, he deserved a bit of pity at that point. I say a bit, because he then walked out of the stall and right out the door. When he made the decision not to wash his hands, all pity went to anyone who had ever shaken one of his soiled hands.

The next few innings of the game were a sensory overload. The announcer, and whoever was running the music system, began to openly mock the other teams players by either making fun of their last names or by playing songs that poked fun at them. One of the shorter players on the other team was greeted by a song that included the lyrics, "I wish I was a little bit taller." Another walked to the dish and had to hear Abba’s "Dancing Queen", as if they were suggesting that he was a friend of Dorothy. Lastly, one of the player’s names was Mueller. So, three times during the game we heard... "Mueller....Anyone? Mueller?" Oh, that Ferris Bueller line was never used so cleverly before.


Add all of those things in combination with the fact that each half-inning interval had some sort of activity going on. Whether it was a t-shirt toss or a faux sumo wrestling competition you never had a chance to sit back in your seat and relax and enjoy the concept of being at a baseball game.

It’s just a matter of time before they’ll just take a random fan onto the field and let people beat him with a sock full of quarters for a good between inning giggle.

The motto of the team is, “Baseball the way it ought to be.” If this is the way it’s supposed to be, then I think I’ll be lining up for WNBA tickets sooner than I ever thought possible.


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