It's over. World Series dreams have shattered. Time to reflect on a glorious season and a special Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards:
It was about a million degrees, I couldn't smoke, I had a wicked hangover and, though I'd been in Baltimore six months, this was my first Orioles game. Utter blasphemy in the eyes of this baseball-obsessed city.
I only bought the tickets because an Oriole-worshiping friend was visiting from out of town.
We had great seats.
"These are great seats!"
"I know; I paid $50 for them."
"These are amazing seats!"
"I could be sleeping right now."
I know you're that saying anything less than ga-ga over baseball in Baltimore is akin to wearing a floor-length mink coat to a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals conference.
Especially with how close we came, our beautiful stadium, St. Cal, yadda, yadda.
You couldn't get away from it. Its fans clogged downtown streets. At the gym, three televisions broadcast games simultaneously as innocent citizens tried to get an honest workout.
It was out of control. It's just a game. Granted, a game out of which Ken Burns made a 500-hour miniseries, a game that has brought this quiet, mid-Atlantic bastion of Americana to its knees, but a game nonetheless.
And I'm not just swinging at the air. I've paid my dugout dues.
Growing up in San Diego, I was dragged to Padres game after Padres game because my older sister was a fan.
The only things that got me through were those ice cream sundaes in the little plastic helmets and mocking Garry Templeton.
Not even the San Diego Chicken could stifle my boredom with his wacky antics.
In Chicago, I saw the Cubs in action, which was semitolerable because there was a 7-Eleven right outside the ballpark where you could buy Slurpees to smuggle inside.
But here I was at Camden Yards, Slurpeeless, chickenless and sweaty; expected to overflow with ecstasy at the sound of a ball meeting a bat; to swoon with pride at the sight of a badly dressed athlete running from white square to white square; to melt with desire at the smell of stale, chewy popcorn.
I wasn't buying it. The hype or the popcorn.
I needed a cigarette.
I escaped to the entrance and watched the game on a television screen.
It was just as boring on TV as it was in the ballpark.
When I returned to my seat, my friend eyed me critically.
"You missed it!"
"I missed what?"
"A home run!"
"I saw it on TV."
"Then why come to the game?"
"You tell me."
I learned, however, that some can balance the torture with considerable skill.
Two well-coiffered women appeared during the fifth inning and sat in front of us. They had a few beers, laughed it up and left about two innings later.
They knew how to do baseball: a brief survey, a few drinks, a smooth exit.
My friend mumbled to himself about how they weren't real baseball fans, just poseurs wasting valuable tickets. But I admired their ability to average more beers consumed than innings observed.
The whole game wasn't a loss, however.
I was impressed by the black shoes with the fluorescent orange stripe, and Brady Anderson had quite a tokus on him. But Brady's posterior and the fancy footwear only kept me interested for about half an inning.
So I tried to shift my focus from the rear of Brady's tight-fitting pants.
Maybe I could get into the spirit of it. I could yell "Hey batter, batter, sa-wing batter!" like Ferris and Cameron during the baseball portion of their day of Chicago abandon in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
I loved that movie. I could love baseball.
I stood up and started cheering frantically, "Go O's! Go O's!"
L I did not realize that the other team had just scored a run.
My attempt at enthusiasm had failed, so I let my mind wander.
I wondered if the hot dog vendor was a White House aide during the off-season.
I wondered if the paunchy man behind me would stop spitting into my hair with his every whoop and holler.
And most of all, I wondered why people were drinking so much beer in the afternoon.
And, surprise, the game went into extra innings!
It seems like Orioles games always go on for about 34 innings. They NEVER end.
It finally ended - but even then it wasn't over. My friend just had to take a look at the Orioles store, which was teeming with preadolescent fans and their weary parents.
I resisted the intense urge to purchase a set of Cal Ripken coasters and politely asked my friend if we could please leave before I bludgeoned him to death with a glossy Orioles paperweight.
He obliged, and we walked home in silence. I felt neither enriched nor elated by the experience. One good thing came out of it, though:
I'd seen a game at Camden Yards. Now at least I had an excuse never to go again.
I hate baseball.
There, I said it.
Kevin Costner and his corny cornfield friends interest me just about as much as expired Spam. The same with the Orioles. The same with precious Cal Ripken.
I mean, look what you've all done to him. Let the man take a day off. Stop pressuring him. It's not healthy.
This is a call to all closet baseball-haters. I know you're out there. Don't be afraid to step up to the plate.
I can't be the only one utterly confused by the mania. There must be others also convinced that baseball drove Baltimore completely peanuts and crackerjacks.
Hit a home run for nonconformity.
Your tokus will thank you for it.
Tamara Ikenberg is a two-year intern in The Sun's features department. She hopes Orioles fans won't throw baseballs at her for speaking her mind.
Pub Date: 10/19/97