Monday, April 23, 2007

Take me out to the (beach-)ball game

As I sat in the left field pavilion at Dodgers Stadium this weekend, I found myself enamoured with the ball game going on. Hearing the roar of the crowd. Experiencing the thrill of keeping the opponent powerless. Watching the ball take several awkward bounces, or seeing the wind carry it over the wall at the least opportune time.

And all this happened while the Dodgers were in the middle of their game.

When fans in the stadium break out the beach balls, spectators get to not only watch a major-league match up, but play in one of the more exciting games of keep-away since preschool.

I don't know how I feel about the security of Dodgers Stadium. Despite pat-downs and bag checks, they can't stop these contrabans from entering the gates. Hundreds of beach ball are smuggled into the gates each week. Perhaps the fan next to you is carrying one in. You'd never know.

For anyone who's never been to a game at Chavez Ravine, allow me to paint you a picture of what may appear like simply batting around a beach ball, but is in fact much much more. Fans cry out for other fans to hit the beach ball to them. Just one swing at this air-filled ball of joy can complete any child's (or adult's) visit to the ballpark. However, it's not a simple free-for-all of beach ball madness.

Ushers in the aisles are reduced to substitute-teacher authority figures. They get no respect and can only hope to keep the appearance of a controlled environment, all the while knowing they are powerless to ground the fleet of flying beach balls. Each time the ball is batted over the head or out of the reach of a desperately-grasping usher, a crescendo of cheers graces the bleachers. Allow an usher to capture the ball, and you'll be booed by your fellow Dodgers fans.

Getting the ball confiscated, however, is of little consequence to these diehard fans of bleacher beach ball. Out of the masses pops up yet another sphere of entertainment, and the game begins anew. Fans in the rest of the stadium pay little attention to this highly competative game unless a reckless beachballer commits the game's cardinal sin:

Allowing the ball to fly over the wall and onto the field.

Only Barry Bonds gets booed louder than the fan who either hits or fails to prevent the beach ball from falling onto the grass. Now an on-field usher must run an NFL-combine-worthy time in the 40-yard dash to retrieve the ball.

Fans sitting along either baseline and behind home plate now look down their noses at the irresponsible outfield fans who inappropriately and unnecessarily interrupted a perfectly good baseball game. It's beach ball interferance. Thus the necessity of the booing. If you allow the ball onto the field, you've not only lost a beach ball, but now you're making the rest of the fans in your section look bad.

The actual baseball game isn't even necessary. Thanks to this new participation sport, fans now have an opportunity to get involved at the game at Dodgers Stadium. So root, root, root for the Dodgers. If they don't win, it's a shame. But lose the beach ball out onto the field, and as far as your fellow fans are concerned, you're a cretan.

So next time you go out to a Dodgers game, feel free to bring your glove. Don't forget your pencil to keep score. And bring a beach ball tucked in your pocket. After all, when the jerk next to you slaps the ball right to the usher, you can keep the party going.

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