Tuesday, August 18, 2009

COLUMN: Take me out of the brawl game

This past July my family and I had our best Red Sox experience ever: perfect weather, a great game, and we somehow got picked out of the crowd to be spotlighted on the big screen for their “Fan Stories” segment. Our only mistake was afterwards, when we didn’t sell our August tickets and start pretending baseball didn’t exist, like unicorns, or professional soccer.

Because as all parents know, when something goes that well it’s usually pointless to attempt to replicate it. And yet still we try, for the same reason George Lucas kept making all those Star Wars movies: the millions of dollars in merchandising. No, wait, it’s because we’re delusional and desperate.

So we traipsed into the Sox again last week, on what proved, unfortunately, to be the night of the bench-clearing brawl started by Kevin Youkilis. You might have seen it when it was shown on SportsCenter 5,000 times the next day, often in slow motion and sometimes with a commentator drawing X’s and O’s over the participants.

Of course, on TV a good brawl can break up the monotony of a particularly slow-moving baseball game, otherwise known as: a baseball game. But in real life, most of us have never seen anyone get assaulted, and it turns out it’s kind of ugly — particularly when the one doing the assaulting is Youkilis, who has been known to smash cinderblocks into dust with his gigantic bald head.

That was bad enough, but for my son and daughter, age 8 and 10, the crowd reaction was what really threw the night off. It didn’t help that we were stuck at the end of one of those typically Fenway-ish rows in the Grandstands, where the only way to get out of your tiny seat is by pressing yourself through a phalanx of people whose physiques are crying out for a facility with rows of tethered-together Barcaloungers. (Yankee Stadium?)

This is OK usually, but not so much when the 39,000 people around you start screaming “Kill him!” and “Hit him again!” while stomping their feet and waving their fists and other appendages. One minute you think you’re at a pleasant sporting event, and the next you realize you’ve brought your kids to a bullfight in a Hemingway novel, if Hemingway novels featured the F-word and giant beers.

Suddenly kids everywhere were bursting into tears and jumping into their parents’ arms, and mine were seriously rattled — even my diehard Sox fan son. “Why would grownups act this way?” he asked me, apparently genuinely concerned for their mental health, not to mention his own personal well being. I hate it when I don’t have answers for questions like that.

Unable to convince them that we weren’t surrounded by unstable maniacs, we wound up leaving soon after; as a result, we missed most of the game that had cost me, for tickets, food and parking — wait, let me check my records — one meeeellion dollars.

It was frustrating to say the least, and I know it’s too much to expect a crowd in that situation to rap firmly on their bowler hats and declare “Bad form, chap!” But you’d think it would be possible to keep the players from doing things that would, in everyday life, get them arrested. Seems to me if you let them commit assault and battery, the next thing you know they’re getting away with on-field arson, and Ponzi schemes.

My son still loves the Sox, although he now thinks they should trade Youkilis (for anybody — “We’ll take your worst player” is the strategy he says Theo should use), and he defaced Youkilis’ picture on the cover of his Red Sox yearbook in a manner that makes me think I should hide the spray paint when he reaches his teen years. His opinion didn’t soften much when Youkilis half-apologized for setting a bad example for kids: “He should have known kids were there to watch baseball, not a fight,” he said. “Stupid Youkilis.”

We’ll see if the incident has any long-term affects on my son’s feelings toward baseball in general, but it will probably be a while before we go to another game — which works out fine, since it will take me a while to save another meeeellion for tickets. But I hope he’ll believe me when I tell him this was an isolated incident that had nothing to do with what is essentially a fine, upstanding pastime.

Or maybe I’ll just fall back on the unicorns.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England; this column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca. To receive At Large by e-mail, write to info@chianca-at-large.com, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”


Daddy Scratches said...

My son was in a multi-morning summer baseball clinic the week of the brawl. The morning after the fight, the kids were loudly urging each and every batter to charge the mound, and, during their downtime, were acting out the melee.

Stupid Youkilis, indeed.

Innkeeper Seely said...

I never liked the fights at hockey games either. In baseball it is really unacceptable. Glad your kid is recovering.

southerngirl (from dave's blog) said...

sorry your kids had to witness that, peter

what a disappointing ending to what should have been a fun outing