Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ode to Section 5

(Mick, Eddie, Steve - July 4, 2008)

Eleven seasons. In some ways, it went by in a blur. Friendships were formed. Marriages began...and ended. Children were born. People came and went. Yet largely, there was always the core - Mick, Eddie, Steve, Kelly, and me. I'm not forgetting about Kris, and Chris, or Christine, or Lizzie, or Jeremiah, or Billy...and on and on.

This was Section 5 at Yankee Stadium. Yet to understand it, you have to know how it all came to be.

The year was 1996, and the Yankees were on their way to giving us the nirvana that seemed like a lifetime to come to fruition(18 years in Yankees-land IS a lifetime). It seemed like the long-awaited World Series title would happen in 1994, but that was before greed and arrogance reared their ugly heads once again, denying Donnie Baseball of a possible championship. In 1995, the Yankees won the first wild card, but fell in a classic five-game series to the Mariners. Nineteen ninety-six was the year. I was able to get a pair of tickets to game one of the ALDS against the Rangers (the Yankees lost) but would see nothing else in person. The morning after the Yankees beat the Braves to clinch the title, I looked inside the Daily News and there, staring at me, was a picture with members of Sandi's family - at the World Series.

It bothered me. A lot. So how does a lifelong fan get the dream ducats?

A season ticket package.

It's not that easy anymore, but the pursuit of World Series tickets led me to buy my Friday tickets beginning in 1998. (It would pay off, as I would go see World Series games from 1998-2001) I bought two tickets, and a rogue gallery of friends and family, past and present, would go with me. Originally I was surrounded by what seemed like groups - you know, the church group, the kids who were barely interested, the screamers, the idiots.

That would eventually change, and the faces would become familiar. That's where Mick, John, Eddie and Steve came along. We kind of all tolerated each other - they liked to drink (and use the rest room). The beer was just too damn expensive for me. I liked to quietly watch the game, and even kept score. Up until the end of 2001, I would go into the Stadium with a backpack full of goodies that I can no longer take with me(thanks again, Mr. Bin Laden). I also brought friends who delighted in sitting down and not moving for the duration of the game (much like me).

That would eventually change. We'd all get to know each other. John would decide to stay home, and Eddie and Steve would stop coming for awhile, and Mick would have his own rotating gallery of guests, but soon Eddie and Steve returned and Jeremiah joined the fun. For me, the guest of the week would fade - from Lauren, Stephanie, Mike, Sean (both the Killer and The Son), and even Sandi, down to just Kris - the second cousin who is like a brother.

We developed personalities and roles. Liz and Christine (known as "Kennedy") were known for the late arrivals, early exits, and ditching us for their friend The Jockey (don't ask - you'd have to see it to understand). Kelly would quietly watch a row below us, mostly laughing at our insanity, but largely acting like an omnipotent character. Mick was the class clown and owner of the World's Smallest Bladder. I am the Mayor (or whatever title you want to give me) - presiding over it all and taking it all in.

At least I was. Until I earned a more important title. A truly higher calling.

I became the High Priest of the Sack of Nuts.

I can't tell you how it started. I'm guessing Mick bought a sack of nuts (simple enough). At first, it was all about being idiotically sophomoric (playing with Mick's nuts...get it?). We'd all laugh, of course. Then I began to speak a sermon. Soon, a tradition was born. It consists of me speaking in the guise of a preacher, praying for a victory, for health, for alcohol, for whatever is on my mind at that moment.

As a group, we'd sit transfixed on the big video screen for the Cap Game (Mick is a pro at it, but I'm no slouch), the Subway Race (Mick comically rooting for the B train because, to him, it stands for "bitch"), and the trivia games (the domain of yours truly). Oh, and God forbid somebody tried to get engaged via the big screen.

We'd let the world know where we stood. I thought a riot might break out when a security guard cursed in front of John and his young son. We watched the fights and laugh. We'd defend each other like friends should. We had zero tolerance for the wave. And little patience for mouthy opposing fans.

And of course, ridicule of Marlboro Man and his band of idiots and hangers-on. Yet they're too easy of a target.

Tomorrow night, I will speak my final nut sermon in our glorious old House. We'll carry it and the other traditions into the new building, but there's no way it will be the same. We've made our pitch to the Yankees to stay together as a group and I imagine we'll try. A few of the people are likely to fade away, and that's OK, but I'd hate to lose Mick and the boys, and Kelly. We've become family. Mick and I have been to each other's homes, and I know there are many more good times to come. He's become a very trusted ally of mine. The Yankees are really the only sports team we agree on, but that's OK. We agree on so much more - music, movies, trivia, life. He has a great wife (Gretchen, despite her choice of team...Boston) and he's there for me anytime I give him a shout.

So as with anything else in life, we'll have the memories. We'll gather one more time tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium and the beer will flow. The Subway Race will run. The proposals will be made. The conversations will be had. Mick will go the bathroom five or six times. And we'll laugh. God will we laugh. There might even be a tear, but nobody will see it.

There will be a ballgame. The Yankees might even win. After that, I have one more ticket to the Stadium. We'll discuss that next week.

1 comment:

Tim Parry said...

The coolest thing is how you got the FCIAC to work Greenwich's football schedule around your Yankees tickets. Or did you just get Darien planning and zoning to vote against lighting for the football field?