May 1996 - My Game Rules
I've been to over 300 Major League baseball games in the last 16 years. Along the way, I've developed little routines, habits and rituals that enhance and define the experience for me. Without being too regimented, I've developed a personal Code of Conduct for attending baseball games. I don't always live up to my own standards, but here's a sampling of what I strive for:
1. Arrive early. Esteemed baseball scribe Thomas Boswell proclaimed that there are two kinds of baseball fans: Those who get there for batting practice, and those who don't. I consider myself late if the gates are already open. While waiting outside for the magic moment, the buzz of anticipation is palpable.
2. Make new friends. It's rare that I attend a game without chatting up the folks around me. Sometimes it's just an exchange of a tidbit or wisecrack, but often it's much more. At Camden Yards in late '92, I had the fortune to sit next to a chap from Florentine Films. Turned out he was in the midst of making a little serial called "Baseball" with Ken Burns. We yacked away for 14 innings, and it was probably the most memorable ballpark encounter I've had with another fan. I've become chummy with many of the fine ushers at Fenway, who are some of the biggest baseball fans in the building. A required part of my pre-game agenda is to check in with them.
3. Never miss a pitch. This is the hardest one to live up to. Even for rabid fans, it's tough to maintain that level of concentration throughout an entire game. I do the best I can. The extension of this rule is to be in my seat if there's action on the field. I don't go to the concession stands once the game has started, and, I've honed the art of getting to the head and back in the time it takes to make a pitching change.
4. Never interfere with a ball still in play. I've not had the opportunity, but I think I'd keep my wits in the heat of the moment. It galls me to no end when some cretin reaches over to grab a live ball, then high-fives his buddies as if he's done something to celebrate. Mistakenly called "fan" interference, these perpetrators are the antithesis of baseball fans. The minimum penalty should be to confiscate their balls and eject the louts. Zero tolerance.
5. Never, ever do the wave. Is there anything more bush league that goes on in Major League ballparks? A baseball game is not interactive. They play, we watch. I don't do beach balls or pay attention to fights, either.
6. Always stand for the 7th Inning Stretch. Baseball is a game of traditions, and this ancient rite, unlike the wave, is one that fans can participate in without interfering with someone's view of the game. I seldom sing the traditional ditty, because someone might take me out of the ball game.
7. Stay late. Yogi nailed this one. It's against my religion to leave a baseball game before the last out. I confess: I've sinned a handful of times here, but it was usually because I had to catch a plane, and it was just too darned far to walk home. Even if the outcome appears to be foregone, for me it's critical to see the whole game. Isn't that the point?
8. Keep every ticket stub. I put my stubs, along with other related memorabilia, into a scrap book. I am compulsive about this, and it drives me nuts to know that I'm missing two! I find great satisfaction in coming home and adding another spent ducat and figuratively closing the book on the game. Flipping through the collection triggers memories and images as clear as a photo album.
If this sounds a bit much, just consider the wacky rituals and superstitions that some players have!