Unless you’re a Mets fan, opening day represents that wonderful point in the season when hope still abounds. No matter how horribly your team falls apart in August, and they always do, you can enjoy late March and early April because the promise of a successful season hasn’t fallen off the rails, landed in a wayside and splattered in the defecation of all the other teams that are much better than the one you support.
No matter the circumstances, there’s still hope. Take my Toronto Blue Jays. No, seriously take them. Heyo! Seriously though, in a chat yesterday on this very site a Jays fan was trying to explain the circumstances that could lead Toronto to a 90 win season. 90 wins!
That’s an absurd number that, quite frankly, isn’t going to happen, but far be it from me to ruin that particular fan’s dreams. The Blue Jays will do a good enough job of that by July.
Take a look around the league. Brandon Belt hasn’t looked overmatched. Adrian Gonzalez’s shoulder doesn’t seem to be a problem. Manny Ramirez is showing a good work ethic. Lyle Overbay is batting clean up in Pittsburgh. And Tony LaRussa hasn’t . . . okay, well there are still a lot of reasons to be optimistic.
We’ll have the next few months to gripe and groan over disappointing baseball, unexpected injuries and horrible managerial decisions. For the next 48 hours, we should focus on our respective teams’ opening day, and the perhaps delusional hope that this will finally be our year.
Which brings us to the first point.
Lose Your Mind
Unless you’re supporting one of the eight teams that will make the playoffs this year, and even if you are one of the fans of those lucky eight teams, you’re going to experience disappointment at times throughout the season. Take advantage of the fact that your club currently sit atop their division. It’s true. Check the standings. And take a mental picture because the chance may not come again.
For some of us, distance, obligation or financial concern might block us from attending our team’s home opener in person. Don’t worry. While the experience isn’t as great as being there, finding a bar with a high definition television and socializing with locals is a close second. Failing that, watching from home is a valid option. You might miss out on the more communal aspects of cheering on a baseball team with others, but in all likelihood, you’ll be the only person who remembers any of the more meaningful moments of the game.
For the rest of us, there isn’t much more to live for than sitting on a hard plastic chair with a cold beer in hand, watching pitchers from the stretch, listening to the crack of a bat and telling the morons in front of you to simmer down after they stand up and shout for every single routine fly ball as though it’s a home run. Don’t even get me started on people hell bent on starting the wave.
Whatever it is that sets you off, embrace it. Celebrate it. Get into it and have some fun.
As one of my friends once said in the sixth inning of a home opener a few years back, “You can go to a bar with a field, or you can go to a bar.” I’m not sure what he meant either, but I’m fairly confident that it best encapsulates how you should treat your team’s first home game of the year.
Which brings us to the next point.
The Consumption Of Alcohol
Baseball, unlike any other sport, lends itself to conversation because of the small breaks between moments of action. Conversation lends itself to drinking because the modern person is so riddled with social anxiety that saying hello to a stranger, even if they are wearing the same coloured jersey as you, is next to impossible without some liquid courage.
For most fans, it’s tradition to have a couple of drinks before the first game of the year. Unfortunately, if the rest of Major League Baseball cities are anything like Toronto on opening day, most bars around the ballpark are going to have first time drunks and total amateurs hanging from the rafters.
These watering holes will be filled with 250 sweaty drunks wearing matching t-shirts using the nickname of the team or a player’s name in some double entendre that barely makes sense and is more often than not of a sexual nature. These t-shirts can also be recognized for how uncomfortable they make random women on the street feel.
Yes, Toronto fans, fellatio is hilarious and the initials of your team is B.J. It’s been B.J. for more than thirty years, you’d think we’d be over it by now.
Avoid these groups at all cost. Do a little bit of research and try to find a more reasonable place to put back a drink or two where you’ll be able to loosen up before the game and not endure the stress of waiting for drinks and a bill. I highly recommend nearby hotel bars.
If you’re lucky enough to live in Toronto, there happens to be a little brewery that sits south east of the Rogers Centre and across Bremner Boulevard that I like to call Steam Whistle. Upon walking into the brewery you may initially confuse it with heaven because you will be given a free sample of beer.
Smarten up. There’s no such thing as heaven, and as a godless pagan, you should know this already.
In addition to the beer sample, the brewery employees will try to talk you into taking a tour of their workplace. Don’t bother with the tour, but do bother with another drink at a very reasonable price before going into the Dome. I wouldn’t recommend camping out there for an afternoon, but as a quick pit stop on your way into the stadium, it can’t be beat.
I also recommend Bar Wellington at Portland and Wellington . It’s just far enough away to avoid the foot traffic, but close enough that you won’t have to get a taxi or jump on the TTC to get to the game.
No matter where you go after the game, I recommend a cleansing drink before getting back on the beer train. My drink of choice is usually a celebratory Caesar with a pickled bean and some serious hot sauce. The healthy dose of Tabasco sauce rids your mouth of the stale aftertaste of the ten beers you drank from stadium draught machines that likely haven’t been cleaned since the last time your local teams was in the playoffs.
Don’t Be Total Douches To Ushers
Telling baseball fans not to drink is like telling teenagers that abstinence is the best route. Let’s be honest, you’re probably going to have your fair share by the third inning. Pretending otherwise is useless.
However, your fortification doesn’t mean you have to be a total douche to the usher who asks you not to stand up on your seat and holler obscenities at the one player on the other team that you can recognize, while the two six year olds sitting in front of your seats look back at the commotion you’re causing.
Yes, a minority of stadium ushers and usherettes are total power trippin’ douche and douchettes, but the majority are fans just like us. They’re already going to have to tolerate a season’s worth of college kids getting drunk for the very first time. Don’t be a poop in their cut.
You’re better than that.
Avoid Physical Confrontation
I know what you’re thinking. Pacifism is for pansies. Well, you’re wrong meathead.
Are you seriously in kindergarten or are you just not clever enough to think up derogatory comments on the fly? Only the stupidest people in the universe prefer fists to words. Don’t be one of them.
It’s a given that there are going to be jerks getting wasted at the game. I’m pretty sure it’s in Proverbs or something: wherever people are gathered, morons shall be present too. Don’t be surprised if you feel yourself getting the Matt Stairs eyes over some idiot with manicured facial hair acting like it’s 28 Days Later, and he’s the only person on earth.
Steady. Hold. Steady. Unless he’s bothering your girlfriend, mother or sister, stay calm. Call him out on his plucked eyebrows. Laugh at how he’s forced his girlfriend to look like a transvestite just to keep up with his cosmetics purchases. Ask him if the rest of the cast of Jersey Shore is as clever as he is.
Just don’t get all mouth breathing Australopithecus and challenge him to a fight.
However, if an altercation does occur, never fight a guy in the row behind you. That one level of elevation can make even the toughest guy look like he’s made of baby.
The Field Is For The Players
This may be shocking, but it’s actually not cool to run onto the field during the game. That’s why they have security at the bottom of the aisles.
If you really didn’t get enough attention as a child and you enjoy getting it in the most ill-advised ways possible, at the very least, don’t be half-assed about it, take off ALL your clothes.
Standard Rules Apply
Look, it’s likely been at least six months since you were at your last game. Even the best of us will be a little bit rusty. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered.
I certainly didn’t get ahead in life by remembering stuff. And besides, I know it’s a lot to take in, and the only thing you’re likely interested in retaining today and tomorrow will be alcohol, so here are some quick reminders, you can copy down or print off:
If you’re going to drink at the game, don’t drive. Running on the field, using foul language in front of kids, picking fights, being a jerk to the ushers is all really stupid behaviour that even barely literate people should know better than to engage in. Driving after drinking is dumber than all of those combined.
Think before you wave, or don’t participate at all.
Don’t use a glove to catch a foul ball. Catch it with your bare hand and give it to a nearby kid, a single woman, or the girlfriend of a man you want to emasculate.
Don’t lose your mind for a free T-shirt. Do dance between innings and cheer wildly for defensive plays.
If you’re buying beer from one of the in-stands peddlers, make sure his arms are big. No, you don’t want to give him your number. Weak arms mean little ice in the cooler. Little ice means warm beer.
Bring cash. The cash machines at ballparks are usually run on servers that make FAX machine sounds.
At the end of the game, don’t start pushing and shoving your way through the crowd. You’re not in line for a subway in Hong Kong, be patient.
Finally, the key is a healthy balance. Try to maintain a modicum of decorum, but have fun too. Celebrate runs, boo the opposition, dance, cheer and have a good time. As I said at the beginning, there’ll be plenty of time to get down about your team, opening day is not the appropriate place.