We don’t usually do post-game posts around here, but we don’t usually do games as special as the one that just concluded in Montreal, either. Not entirely sure why I’m doing it – or sitting in the press box, frankly (and on a number of levels on that one) — except to prove that I haven’t succumbed to alcohol poisoning just yet, and also because it was a hell of an experience this evening, watching baseball in this sprawling weirdo mid-70s womb disguised as public art that, despite the description, feels an awful lot like the Rogers Centre, even while being thirteen years its senior.
The press box was a strange place for me to take this one in, and not because of the constant poor stifling of groans — because I am, of course, first and foremost, a pseudo-professional — and not even because you couldn’t hear the Public Address system. It was because you really only got a narrow feeling of what was going on out there in the crowd — one that didn’t tell the whole story.
Sitting here earlier in the game I sketched out a version of this post, and at the time I wrote that “the fans got very up for the Bautista knock (also: some dumb Rolaids promotion), which, combined with the many… certainly not half-hearted, but not-always-entirely-realized attempts at Let’s Go Expos chants, suggested that maybe this was more a traveling crowd of Jays fans or people with closer ties to Toronto than here,” but walking around the concourse, I can tell you now that was way off.
Maybe it was just the strangeness of cheering for a non-entity that stifled some of that particular type of exuberance. Perhaps it was the stark reality of the economic difficulties of bringing a team back here — something the fans I spoke to were not just fully aware of, but seemed jaded by… which is obviously not difficult to understand — that dampened some of the straight-up nostalgia factor. Or it could simply have been the sound where I was sitting. But it was something, and it was strange.
And it was great.
As I traversed the concourse in the later innings of the game it was evident that this wasn’t simply an Ontario crowd. People spoke French, and they wore Expos gear, and they rose in unison to cheer their hearts out for the Blue Jays as Ricardo Nanita pushed Munenoi Kawasaki across the plate with a walk-off single.
I’m not saying anyone was necessarily converted, but there was definitely no polite taking-in-of-the-action or sitting back and letting the “real Jays fans” from Ontario lead the cheers. There was no mistaking the statement: We like this. We want this.
Maybe it didn’t start out like such a rush of a finish was coming — the crowd was fidgety in the early going, it felt, looking for the right psychic angle with which to approach this event, and waiting restlessly for something to happen — but by the end they got there. The Mets led 4-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, and just as I slipped quietly into a seat on the 500 level of the stadium, underneath throngs of fans, filling the upper bowl to the very top most of the way around, Edwin Encarnacion crushed a double to right field that sent my new section in a frenzy.
And maybe it was that frenzy, in and of itself, that was the lure — the atmosphere, the stadium with its strange shapes, long dead zones, intermittent clouds of marijuana smoke, and rowdy young men in unpatrolled washrooms sharing stalls, snorting cocaine, and rushing back to the thrilling game unfolding within the mania.
I’m hardly saying that the whole stadium was coked to the gills — I’m only even just guessing about those guys I encountered — but in here, if you’re interested in painting with such broad strokes about dangerous charms, it was definitely the Montreal to Toronto’s Rogers Centre, if you know what I mean. And there definitely were many Expos chants. And plenty of Toronto fans. But the way it mixed and rose to a fever pitch with the spectacle of baseball — even just preseason baseball — as the backdrop was a hell of a thing to watch. And, in those times in the stands when I slipped my media lanyard inside my sweatshirt and sipped on a beer, to take part in.
In crass terms it was a clear marketing win for the Jays, if nothing else, and a tremendous feel-good moment for the fans of Montreal. If we allow in ourselves the kind of indulgence that this whole weekend is begging for, we could say that it was something even more, but why? It didn’t need to be more. It was — surprisingly, astonishingly — not unlike Canada-USA at the Rogers Centre back in 2009, and just as clear who the home team was. Maybe I’m making too much of that aspect — maybe I’m reading it entirely wrong — but, whatever it was, shit it was fun.