Goin' it alone...
People look at me like I'm crazy and, after all these years, I'm used to it. Chances are they're right.
It happens when they ask what time I get up in the morning, and again when I tell them what time I go to bed. And, when I tell them I go to the ballpark alone.
"What? You're here all by yourself? What fun is that?" they say.
It's a blast, I tell them, especially in a city like Milwaukee. Exhibit A: Sunday at Miller Park.
My buds were busy, my kids had obligations and my wife was working. It was too cold and soggy to do anything in the yard, I had the house in order and I was sick of being cooped up, knowing the Brewers had a chance of sweeping the Cubs.
I hit the interwebs and came up with a solo ticket Saturday night (first row, Terrace Box behind home plate for $25). It's easy getting a good seat when you're a single.
Once inside, I met Wes and his wife having a pre-game cocktail. Brewers fans are a friendly lot and soon we were chatting things up like old buds. Kids. Mortgage rates. We even talked a little baseball.
The first pitch approached and, on my way to my seat, I got huge props from a Cubs fan who dug on my Seattle Pilots ensemble--Jim Bouton home jersey and Roman Pro hat. Chicago backers aren't all bad, as I'd find out the rest of the afternoon as I shared most of the fray next to Mike from Tosa and his wife who is a lifelong Cubs fan. Her knowledge of Chicago National League Baseball was encyclopedic and Mike often deferred to her for details, observations, opinions and club history. Being a recovering Cubs fan myself (Chicago was one of my favorite teams growing up in Sheboygan during the time between the Braves' departure and the arrival of the Brewers), we had a blast sharing old times, talking up the current state of the two franchises and sharing the thrills of a close game.
Sure, it would've been fun having one or both of my kids at my elbow, or to share an afternoon at the park with my wife. Having a buddy to experience a Brewers win that Sunday afternoon under the Miller Park lid would've been fantastic but, for reasons beyond my control, it wasn't going to happen. That didn't mean that a first-person baseball experience wasn't going to evolve.
You always have a friend at the ballpark. We live in a time where folks are free to overindulge and self-excite: texts, social media and the web allow us to indulge individually to the point of personal excess. We watch our own shows, see our own movies, make our own web bookmarks and do so many, many things all by our lonesome. How ironic, then, that it's seen by some as strange to do an ultimate group experience solo.
Sports in general--baseball in particular--are shared. They're an opportunity to sit as one and witness an event in the moment--not on a DVR, Netflix or Red Box. It's reality TV. Organic. Spontaneous. It makes you high-five a complete stranger when Ryan Braun hits a three-run homer. It makes you question out-loud a manager's decision, only to have the person next to you concur.
I love people and have lots of friends. I enjoy doing baseball, even with people I never met or may never see again. A passion shared is a beautiful, community-affirming thing, even cooler when it's with people who's names you did't know when you stood as one to sing the anthem but who's e-mail addresses you were sharing as the fireworks punctuated another Milwaukee win.
Mike, Wes and their wives made a Sunday at the park alone an afternoon I won't forget. A Brewers victory, coupled with people I would have otherwise never met made yet another solo foray to the yard worthwhile.. It happens more often than not.
Don't be afraid to give it a try.