Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Three Strikes and You’re Out (On Bad Behavior)

As August draws to a close, baseball lovers all over the country are starting to realize that 2007 may not be their year. In fact, almost half of our Major League teams are realistically out of playoffs contention. While die-hard baseball fans will argue baseball is still worth watching, attendance numbers in many of these out-of-the-running cities reveal how dependent fans are on a little competitive energy and excitement.

Take, for example, the Chicago White Sox. This time last year, the Sox were at the head of the American League Wild Card race, and hoping to take another trip to the World Series. Fast-forward to 2007, and the Sox, floundering at 14 games below .500, aren’t going anywhere but home for the playoffs, and their attendance has decreased by over 3,000 fans per game.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Milwaukee Brewers have turned their bottom-feeding franchise into a National League Central contender, and their attendance has soared by over 6,000 people a game from their 2006 average to 35,000 butts in seats every night.

But large crowds aren’t the only things missing from Major League cellar-dwelling stadiums. Without the excitement and energy generated by a playoff run, baseball fans often look beyond the home team’s struggles for entertainment at the ballpark. As a frequent attendee of late season games with little bearing on the postseason, I have managed a few observations when America’s pastime goes boring.

1. Hating on the Home Team

Now I’m pretty sure this is more of a Northern cities thing, but for a nice Texan like me, booing the home team is as objectionable as snowfall in March. That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the frustration. Paying $45 for a ticket to watch your home team get three hits and be out of it in the fifth inning is no cause for applause, but if your team is 10 games under .500, what do you really expect to happen?

Other than the rare exception where the player seems to have actually given up like the Mets’ Rey Ordonez getting a haircut between innings in 2003, players have economic and competitive incentives to give their all late in the season regardless of playoff chances. While it is in every paying fan’s right to boo and yell as much as he wants, a true supporter of the team should not boo the players for having a bad day, especially if the owner and general manager are not committed to putting a winning team on the field.

2. Summer Lovin’

Some may call it romantic, but why one would want to propose marriage via loudspeaker in front of 30,000 uninterested spectators is beyond me. The flaws of such a proposal plan are numerous. For starters, let’s say your lucky bride says yes. You are now left with the awkward decision of staying at the game and putting off the celebration of your impending nuptials or leaving in the fifth inning with your new fiance as the entire crowd knows exactly where you are headed. Not to mention the fact that it seems odd to make all that effort to get married at a baseball game and then leave before it’s over.

Then, of course, there is always the chance she could say no. Impossible? I don’t think so. At a recent Houston Astros home game, one lucky man’s jumbotron marriage proposal was met with a popcorn bucket to the head and a runway bride-to-be. A shower of boos ensued from the home crowd, and two innings later, when the man finally decided he should probably go find his girlfriend, he was met with a sympathetic standing ovation from the home crowd. My only hope is that other hopeless romantics in attendance took notes and will decide to move their marriage proposal plans to a classier venue such as a bowling alley or a horse racetrack.

3. Drinking

Baseball isn’t the most intense sport, and I can totally understand why some may feel the need to have a few drinks at the stadium. For many, drinking and baseball go hand in hand, and as a late-season game heads into the later frames, it doesn’t take long to notice a change in pockets of the crowd. Focused fans with a glove in one hand and a beer in the other drop their gloves and bottles and replace them with long stemmed, tropically-colored frozen drinks. Quickly losing interest in the action, these fans usually spend the next few innings trying to find their friends who are also at the game using their cell phones. Like a large, drunken game of Where’s Waldo, the “Find Your Buddy in the Crowd Challenge” is as rewarding as it is irritating for others. Using large landmarks and optical attention grabbers such as waving or jumping up and down, these wonderful sports fans drop everything they are doing in order to discover where someone they know is sitting and wave to them. The game comes to an awkwardly anti-climactic close when participants realize that, having achieved optical contact, the excitement is over and the phone conversation is now directionless.

If you find yourself in possession of tickets to such a late-season stinker, don’t sell them online or push them on to an unsuspecting cousin. Take a trip out to the ballpark and look for your own little oddities in the crowd. Baseball may be America’s oldest pastime, but people watching has got to be its favorite.

Jamie Leader is a junior in the College. He can be contacted at Follow the Leader appears every other Friday in Hoya Sports.

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