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Opening Day reflections: Peanuts, Cracker Jack, soy hot dogs and the optimism of the wave

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san-diego-padres-opening-day.jpgAs the baseball season kicks into high gear today, writer Lindsey Miller shares her own unique relationship with America's pastime.


Today is baseball's Opening Day. I only know that because someone's bringing in hot dogs for everyone at work in honor of the occasion. Truthfully, I'm more worried about whether there will be soy hot dogs at the luncheon than who's playing, but this is a sports blog, so I have to at least try to keep my eyes on the ball, so to speak.

Of all the popular team sports that Americans watch, I hold the greatest respect for baseball. It's a wholesome, nostalgic, all-American game. Blue sky. Green grass. Brown dirt. White ball, red laces. Even present-day baseball players feel to me like a relic from the past, nostalgic like my dad's yellowing collection of baseball cards that he used to keep in a shoebox in the attic, or his soft, smelly leather baseball mitt that he was saving for a game of catch with a son who never came. Instead, he got three daughters who were more interested in playing dress-up than catch, but still curious about America's and our dad's favorite game.
Even before I had ever been to a game, I thought baseball stadiums-even San Diego's old hybrid football-baseball stadium-places full of wonder. The best $6 hot dogs ever (or so my dad claimed). Peanuts. Cracker Jack. Cotton candy. The famed and mysterious wave. All for a game whose rules I actually understood (unlike football, whose rules still elude me).

cracker-jack.jpgStill, in the middle of my first game (Padres vs. Who Remembers), I wondered what all the fuss was about. Turned out I didn't understand the game so well after all, partly because I couldn't see the ball, sitting up in what they called the nosebleeds-which sound far more romantic than they actually were. Nor did I understand the scoreboard, nor could I tell which team was the one I was rooting for-the home team, of course. The hot dogs weren't anything amazing, and the peanuts and Cracker Jack and cotton candy were all too expensive to bother with... not to mention the beer, which I wasn't old enough to drink. I stared at the field, wondered at the empty seats around the stadium, pretended to be interested in the score, and cheered when everyone else did. I jumped at the slightest hint that a wave around the stadium might start: more often than not they fizzled out.

But I keep going back. The opening of Petco Park in San Diego got me to a couple games over the years, and my move to Chicago necessitated a visit to Wrigley to see the Cubs, and one later to U.S. Cellular Field to see the White Sox. I still stare at the field, pretend to be interested in the score, and cheer when everyone else does. I scoff at the beer and water prices and the lack of soy hot dogs. Each time I go, I vow not to go back, but each time a new opportunity comes up, I find myself saying yes. Must be my own billy-goat curse, set by all those afternoons spent halfheartedly watching baseball with my dad, marveling at his youthful fascination with baseball cards, wondering if I'd ever see what he saw in baseball. I never did, but I keep going back thinking someday I will. Or, if not that, then I'll see a wave actually make it all the way around the stadium.

Baseball's not so blameless anymore, but $6 hot dogs and beer or not, steroids or no steroids, ridiculous salaries or not, if it's able to draw people's minds away from more bad economic news for a few minutes today, or from the stock market tomorrow, then I say, eat a hot dog or two, and, Play Ball.

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Thanks for getting the "Cracker Jack" (singular) reference correct. But you're showing your California still: you will NEVER see the wave make it around any stadium in Chicago.

And "soy hot dogs"????? C'MON! That doesn't even deserve a comment.

Your relationship with baseball reminds me of my relationship with school. Staring out at something I don't quite understand, pretending to be interested in what is going on, hoping for the wave to make it around to me. My dad was a student and then he became a teacher. Maybe I'll go back to school for a few more years so I can look for a job when companies are actually hiring again.

I enjoy your writing. Keep up the good work.

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This page contains a single entry by Admin published on April 6, 2009 12:38 PM.

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