The infant and the infantile football fans

September 04, 1997|By Kevin Cowherd

THIS PAST weekend, I got to the Ravens' opener the way I usually do: by artfully leeching onto a buddy with season tickets.

As we settled into our seats (lower deck, 10-yard line, I hope he's planning to upgrade next year), we came face-to-face with the newest phenomenon to appear at sporting events: babies in the stands.

By babies, I am talking here of your garden-variety infants, some only a couple of months old.

There were at least four of them in our section, drooling and burping and spitting up and doing all the other things babies like to do.

As it happened, one of the babies sat with his mom a few rows in front of us.

Unfortunately, right behind them were four guys who looked like they lived on the edge of a swamp.

They were your stereotypical nutcase fans of the carny-guys-meet-the- NFL variety: long, stringy hair, no shirts, faces painted Ravens purple and black.

Plus, my guess is each guy had a minimum of two six- packs sloshing around in his gut.

As you can imagine, the conversation emanating from these four did not exactly put you in mind of the panel on "Firing Line."

Here, almost verbatim, is a transcript of their observations after the Ravens' opening kickoff to the Jacksonville Jaguars: "Stick him! Son of a b.....!"

"No. 53, you big p....! You gotta stick him, son!"

"Jaguars s...! Jaguars s...!"

Yeah, you gotta love that football lingo.

Luckily, with the aid of a few $4.50 beers, I was able to anesthetize myself to the point where I could tune these guys out.

But the baby wasn't drinking, and therefore was taking all this in with wide-eyed astonishment.

Look, I'm not saying the baby understood any of this.

I'm not saying any of this necessarily harmed the baby.

(Although I could imagine him as a young man 20 years from now, sitting down with his mother at the kitchen table and saying: "Mom, I'm having some disturbing flashbacks: four fat guys waving 16-oz. Bud Light cups, black R's painted on their chests, guts hanging over their jean shorts, all of them screaming ... something.

("Anyway, what do you make of it?")

The point is -- yes, yes, there is a point to all this -- why would you bring a baby to a football game?

This is something I could never understand.

It seems to me if you're a parent with an infant and you're that fired up about going to an NFL game, you should probably break down and hire a baby sitter and leave the kid home.

And if you can't find a baby sitter, maybe you should consider -- I know this is asking a lot, a complete disruption of your social calendar -- just staying home!

Look, I'm no pediatrician, but all the noise at an NFL game can't be good for a baby's ears.

Between the cheering and the PA announcements and the blaring rock music -- you haven't lived until you've heard Todd Rundgren at 120 decibels -- the noise level approaches a Boeing 757 at takeoff.

Then there is the fact (well-documented, I thought) that babies need their sleep.

And I would think it's pretty hard to rack in front of 61,000 screaming football fans, not to mention four howling drunks directly behind you.

Me, I can't sleep if someone's talking on the phone downstairs.

So what chance does this baby have of getting some quality Z's with all that racket going on?

Visually, it must have been a tough afternoon for this baby, too.

Because for most of the game, his mom had him perched over her right shoulder, which meant he was looking right at the four beered-up swamp boys.

Look, if you're 6 months old and forced to stare at some fat, sweaty guy with a knife scar across his face and a vein throbbing on his forehead from screaming so hard, you're not going beddy-bye, it's that simple.

I don't care how quiet it is.

Then again, maybe I'm making too much of this whole baby business.

After the game, which the Ravens blew, 28-27, all the babies in our section seemed fine.

I don't know if they could hear anything, but they seemed fine.

As for the four solid citizens from the Okefenokee, well, they were talking about hitting a bar near the stadium.

And you could certainly understand why.

By my calculations, it had been almost 11 minutes since their last beer.

A fella gets a little dry rooting for his team.

Pub Date: 9/04/97

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