battle of the cheap seats
beach balls, a jailbreak, and a step too far at the cws
by dirk cotton
The Arizona Wildcats may have won the title, but the fans in the cheap seats stole the show at the College World Series Finals the past two nights.
General Admission tickets are available for the outfield seats if you stand in line early enough on game day. The seats are the last in the stadium to enjoy shade on a hot afternoon and fans stare directly into the sun for the first several innings. The GA seats are mostly filled by college students who seem to need more than a good baseball game to occupy their time.
The rest of TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha was startled early in Game One when, during a quiet time of the game, the fans in left field suddenly stood and shouted in unison, "Right field sucks!"
As you can tell from the video, it wasn’t a chant. It was more like someone suddenly standing up in a quiet restaurant and shouting, "I'm bored!"
About the time the laughter died down in the rest of the stadium, the fans in right field stood and returned the insult. It went downhill from there. Turns out it was only a warm-up for Game Two.
Game Two was much better than Game One, though Arizona ultimately won both. ‘Zona scored first and held a one-run lead much of the game until South Carolina tied it in the 7th. The ending was pretty dramatic until UA broke it open in the top of the ninth. Still, USC loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, down 4-1, and got the winning run to the plate before losing it on a fly ball to center.
The weather for Game Two was better, too. Temperatures dropped early in the evening. A beautiful breeze blowing in from left field kept us cool but probably also kept a potential Carolina dinger inside the park.
Still, nothing topped the cheap-seaters.
After the initial insults were hurled at one another, the left field fans secretly inflated what seemed like a hundred beach balls. They bounced them just above their heads looking for all the world like a giant human popcorn machine.
Waves of beach balls washed out of the stands and onto the field and the game was delayed while a half dozen of the ground crew cleared them.
The kids in left explained: "We've got baa-alllls!" Clap. Clap. Clap-clap-clap. "We've got baa-alllls!" Clap. Clap. Clap-clap-clap.
You certainly do.
An inning later, a left field fan dropped a single beach ball onto the field. The umpires called time so a ground crew member could run onto the field and remove it. He ran back off the field with the ball under his arm but when he got nearly back, the fans rolled another ball onto the field. Then another. And another.
You could see the kids queuing up the next ball to drop, like silver balls in a pinball machine, waiting for the ground crew member to almost get off the field before dropping the next. After running on and off the field four times, the poor guy was out of breath and signaled for another member of the ground crew to take over.
One devious fan dropped a beach ball onto the field and waited for the ground crew to almost reach it, then pulled it back into the stands just out of their grasp with a string no one could see.
The left field stands were a mixture of SC fans, UA fans and others. So were the right field stands. The stupidity, the hilarity and the genius of this comedy was the ad hoc banding together of kids for a friendly competition with another group of kids who had nothing in common other than the random assignment of their stadium seats.
God, I miss college.
The beach ball tricks having lost their novelty, several left field fans jumped down onto the field and ran around until Security caught them and escorted them out of the stadium.
At one point, six kids were being chased across the field at the same time by a dozen security guards. One would climb down onto the field and as soon as Security started chasing him another would jump down and head in the opposite direction.
There is something about a jailbreak that is timelessly hilarious.
They weren't all guys, either. One cute, tiny, blonde co-ed in a sundress eluded Security for quite a while. (I still haven't figured out how she jumped down from atop a 9-foot wall.) As she ran across the field, she reached over and patted every player she passed on the butt.
Not everyone was amused. A Gamecock couple sat in front of me. The young lady stood up at one point and said, "I'm outta here."
"Where are you going?" her boyfriend asked.
"I cannot watch a baseball game with these people," she informed him and strode off.
Her boyfriend gave an embarrassed smile to the fans around him and shrugged, but I like a woman who takes her baseball seriously.
Now, I have mixed feelings about interrupting a championship baseball game, but serious baseball fans all around me were enjoying the sideshow. Try that stuff at the NCAA basketball finals and other fans will end you.
I began to wonder why we felt differently when a baseball game is delayed than we would feel about basketball or football interruptions. I gave it a great deal of thought and here's my conclusion.
We're baseball fans. We wait.
We wait five minutes between half innings for the sides to change. We wait while the pitcher stares at the catcher for a sign for so long that the batter gets tired of waiting and steps out of the box so the pitcher has to wait for him.
We wait during conferences at the mound and during countless pitching changes. We wait while one of the coaches argues a call with the umpires. We wait while the umps talk it over amongst themselves. We wait while the umpire makes notes in his little notepad after ejecting the manager for the aforementioned arguing.
We wait while the pitcher throws to first, thirteen consecutive times despite the boos, to hold the runner. We wait for hours for the rain to stop so the game can continue.
We even wait for everyone in the stadium to stand up and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the middle of the 7th inning when it’s obvious that we're already at the ballgame. (Logically, this is a song you should sing at home before the ballgame.)
While we wait we want to be entertained. We want to watch kids spin around a bat until they're dizzy and then stumble and fall while they try to run to first base. After five consecutive innings without a hit, we'd watch Ron Paul debate Rick Perry on YouTube. Twice.
We watched kids dress up like sumo wrestlers and try to knock each other down between innings until it occurred to someone that we might be offending very large Japanese men who toss people around for a living.
One night at a very slow UNC baseball game we watched a fat man in shorts and suspenders get into a screaming match with the popcorn vendor and at the time we were damned thankful for the diversion.
We baseball fans don't object to a little creative entertainment from our fellow fans while we wait as long as they don't interrupt that 5-second streak of action that can decide the game.
So, I salute those of you who were ejected from the stadium in Omaha for running onto the field just to entertain the rest of us — and maybe got arrested for trespassing, for all I know.
And you USC Gamecocks guys who were brave enough to wear those "I Heart Cockz" t-shirts to show your team loyalty. That's a step farther than I'm willing to go for my alma mater.
(You know we’re not laughing with you, right?)
This Bud's for all of you in the cheap seats at the CWS, but I digress.
There was also a baseball game.
In fact, a good one that ended with fireworks and an Arizona dog pile. Congrats, UA. You went undefeated in the CWS and clearly deserved your title. The SC fans around me were dejected, but seemed happy and a bit surprised to have reached the finals.
A friend asked me if, all things considered — the early flights with barely-made connections, the oppressive heat and humidity, the ridiculously overpriced Comfort Suites hotel room — the trip to Omaha was worth it.
Honestly? I had a ball.
Dirk Cotton is a retired executive of a Fortune 500 Internet company who loves to spend time with his family, fly fish, shoot sporting clays, attend college baseball games, sail, follow the Wildcats, and write. Everything else he does is just for fun. A computer programmer-cum-marketing executive-cum-financial planner who now wants to be a writer, he apparently can't decide what he wants to be when he grows up. He and his family moved to The Southern Part of Heaven in 2005 and couldn't be happier with that decision.
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