Those of you who follow me on the twitters know I went to last night’s Braves – Nats game. The opportunity came up because my friend’s company has season tickets for the Nats, and occasionally gives away some of the seats to their employees. She’s not really a baseball, or Nats, fan, but always puts her name in when the Braves are in town because A) she knows my love for the Bravos, and B) is awesome.
It turns out we got tickets to Friday night’s tilt, and on paper, it looked great. Friday night game. Hanson vs. Strasburg. Start of a four game series, with only three and a half games separating the Braves from the first place Nationals.
However, there were omens and portents. An 80% chance of thunderstorms. The fact that the map data in my indispensable GPS is over a year old, and the easiest route from my place to her office (where I was picking her up) is much newer.*
*If you have ZERO sense of direction, and rely on the GPS to get out of your own parking lot, you can imagine how disconcerting it was to drive 20 miles or so while the 8-bit representation of your car basically motors through a cartoon tableau of marshland with no visible roads. If I was Neo in the Matrix, I’d have freaked the fuck out.
Still, I made it her place; we packed some rain gear and headed out to the ballpark.
We made it to the stadium with time to spare and got some sweet parking: a 5 minute (or less) walk from the home plate gate. (Aside: if you need event parking, you should definitely check out ParkWhiz.com. In a nutshell, it’s a “StubHub for parking.” They’re not in every city yet, but they organize and contract with private lots around facilities, and allow you to reserve parking over the web and/or your phone. The official lots had reserved parking for $42. I was able to get a spot much closer for less than half that. Another aside: now I know where Washington D.C. parks all their cement mixers when they are not in use).
We get to the gate, and the attendant helpfully informs us that tonight is a beer stein giveaway – but not at this gate. If we want one, it’s “just two gates over.” We talk about it, and think “sure, why not. Free is free, and why not get a beer stein?” We start walking around, get about 40 feet, and don’t see signs for another gate. I’m initially thinking this might be like Sanford Stadium or some other large facility with dozens of gates, and therefore “two over” might not be that far. However, something is nagging at me, and I stop to ask another attendant how many gates there are in total. She tells me there is one for each “base.” Meaning, there are four total. So “two over” is actually 180 degrees away – all the way on the completely opposite side of the stadium. Well, they could have been offering us beer out of a free motherfucking Holy Grail, and I wasn’t walking completely around to the center field gate.
That decision made, we go in through the home plate gate and quickly find our seats. Terrific sightlines, about 30 rows back along the first base side.
The Nats’ stadium is quite nice, for what it is. It doesn’t have the red brick charm of its regional counterpart, Camden Yards. And they basically plopped it down in the middle of D.C., so there’s only so much you can do with it, but it’s clean and well organized and new. Where we were sitting, we had great access to the (slow-moving) concession lines, bathrooms and even a smoking section outside the gate. We got a couple of brewskis and sat down. There were a few open seats around us, and even a Braves fan in front of me. Robin isn’t steeped in baseball lore, so I had a good time explaining to her Chipper’s historical significance and various baseball jargon (like you call a “four run homer” a “Grand Slam,” but yet there’s no nickname for a “three run homer” – it’s just a “three run homer”). We also had a fascinating conversation about the selection of the batters’ walk up music.**
**Such as, can you “trademark” your walk up song (or coming in from the bullpen song if you’re a closer)? No, not technically, but ostensibly, you want to choose something unique, and that hasn’t already become associated with another prominent player. Some are just perfect, like Chipper’s “Crazy Train,” Hoffman’s “Hells Bells” or Rivera’s “Enter Sandman.” Other conclusions: almost any AC/DC plays like gangbusters, country songs never work, and I can never recognize what the hell most Latin players have. Were I an everyday player, I would probably have “Bohemian Like You” (great opening drum and guitar riff), “When the Levee Breaks” or the theme song from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (c’mon, you know that’s awesome. Builds to a fantastic, fired-up crescendo. And Joss is my lord and savior. And I would probably get plunked more than Craig Biggio).
It wasn’t raining yet, so we put our rain gear in the empty seat to my left and set about “enjoying” the action.
I put “enjoying” in quotes, because the opening stanzas were torture for a Braves fan. Oh, I had great company and it was a wonderful setting, but Hanson looked lost. I think he had 247 pitches (unofficial count) through the first four innings, and that shot Morse hit landed somewhere near the Smithsonian.
Midway through the fourth, we went to get some beer and brats (very good ballpark bratwurst, there, BTW). While we were in the concourse, the rain started coming down. Robin went to get some French fries, and I went back down to our seats to grab my rain jacket. When I get there, the seat where I put it was empty. I was perplexed. Had someone stolen it when all the spectators were running back into the concourse? Had it fallen through the seat and onto the floor? Was I in the right section? Then, I look a couple of seats down to my left, and what do I see but some random dude sitting there in the rain, watching the game, WEARING MY RAINCOAT. All zipped up. Hood on. Acting like “how cool is it that I remembered to bring this bright red rain jacket, and that I can sit here staying dry watching the Nats.” What the fuck is this? I think I’ll use this philosophy in the future. Say I’m hungry, I’ll just walk into my neighbor’s house, go through their refrigerator, and make myself a sandwich. “Sorry, you weren’t actively eating this luncheon meat, and I was hungry, and it was right there next to me, so I just thought would appropriate it for myself.” WHO STEALS AND WEARS A STRANGER’S CLOTHING AT A BALLPARK? AND SITS THERE 4 FEET FROM THE CRIME? I said, “uh, can I have my raincoat, please?” Without even looking sheepish, he takes it off and hands it back to me. I think there was a mumbled apology, but I was so flabbergasted, I didn’t say anything in return. I put it on and headed back up to the concourse. When I got there, I told a disbelieving Robin about the “raincoat adoption.” Fortunately, she has fresh, huge cup of French fries to make everything better. Then, in short order: the rain starts coming down harder. The barely touched French fries fall off their perch, onto the floor behind a grate. And Zimmerman hits a three run bomb (no nickname). Now it’s raining, 9-0 and an “official” game.
I think you can see where this is heading.
It’s here where I should bring up “the jinx.” Living out of market, I don’t get to watch the games with the regularity I did back in my beloved South. I can see them when they play on FOX, TBS, ESPN or MLB in a “nationally” televised game, but unless I purchased Extra Innings, I’m missing all the Peachtree TV and SportsSouth games. I do get to see them via the Nationals broadcasts, which in my case, are “in market.” Early on in my time here, it seemed that when I purchased Extra Innings and/or watched the games, we would lose. Or slump. Or there’d be an injury. When I followed along via the MLB app or ESPN Gamecast, we’d do well. In fact, on twitter, this became a running joke between me and two other Braves fans, Jen (out of market in San Diego) and Angie (in market in Georgia). Was it bad luck when I watched? What happened when Jen watched? Did Angie need to watch? What if we all watched? What was the cause of the bad juju? And who was the jinx?
So, we won on Thursday, and were still left to ponder what karmic elements contribute to a win or a loss.
Friday, after I tweeted that I was at the ballpark, I received this note of encouragement:
Hanson starts doing his impression of a human batting tee, and this:
Well, at this point, my phone is dying***, it's still raining, we're mourning our downed potato soldiers, our beers are empty, our seats are beside the Al Capone of raincoats and it's NINE TO NOTHING.
***There's no way in hell my iPhone will last on a Dawgs game day. Having had a BlackBerry for years, I hardly ever worried about battery life. Days upon days with heavy usage and nary a problem. However, since pulling the plug on a terminal patient earlier this year and switching to an iPhone, I'm constantly watching that little battery meter drop in real-time. From leaving my casa around 3 PM, until I got home late last night, it went from 100% down to around 30%. The iPhone does a lot of wonderful things, but folks, sustaining life ain't one of 'em. It uses more power than The Manhattan Project, doesn't allow you to swap in a new, fresh battery and I think I'm going to sit at the tailgate in Athens connected to jumper cables and a Sears Die-Hard.
So we leave.
I turn the game on the car radio, and in the time it took us to leave the stadium and walk the block and a half back to the car, the Braves have scored four runs.
Apparently, this is a "visual jinx," as I listen to the game on XM all the way home and the Braves rally to take the lead. (I can't explain the Kimbrel blown save -- perhaps someone in a house alongside the road had the game on, and I caught a glimpse of their television as I drove past).
When I walk in my front door, I turn on the TV to see the Nats post-game show.
BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN!
I think we have our answer.