It’s Getting Harder and Harder to Watch Games in Person, Which May Be a Good Thing

Ed. note: I apologize in advance for any typos or inconsistencies, as I knocked this out in one quick sitting and now must head to the pool before we check out and trek back home.

This isn’t some lament about the cost of tickets or concessions, though there’s plenty of validity to that. It’s not about traffic or crowds or rap and rock walk-ups replacing organ music, as much as I can understand why some bear disdain for those things too. I realized as I sat trying to discern Adam Warren’s pitch selection from little other than the velocity figures flashing up on the LED ribbon on the club level facing that I really miss all the ancillary information that come along with watching the game at home.

Don’t get my wrong, I’m not going to stop attending ballgames. And unless I somehow merit a press pass in the future, I’ll be doing so as a any regular ticket holder, which means bad/no wireless activity and a desire to actually watch what’s unfolding before me. But, man, I’ve got to find a better way to make it happen.

I’m wondering how much of my bellyaching comes from this hobby of mine that has so consumed me and, thus, transformed the way I consume baseball. No longer can I afford myself the luxury of simply drawing conclusions off of gut feelings. Not only is my gut notoriously fickle, but there’s just so much information right there at my fingertips that to not at least doggy paddle in the ocean of metrics and analysis would be to do myself and my readers a tremendous disservice.

And I think that’s what it boils down to, my desire to produce content. If I don’t write — or if someone else isn’t submitting — on a daily basis, this whole thing stagnates. I’ve probably placed a bit too much importance on churning out content. Heck, I’m watching my son pantomime Wii bowling while he dances around our Pittsburgh hotel room between bites of scrambled eggs.

Saturday’s game in Pittsburgh was an odd affair, to say the least. We managed to hook up with Danny Rockett (@SonRanto) and his friends and family for a tailgate in one of the surface lots near PNC Park. Danny and I shared a few beers and talked about following the Cubs on the road and the upcoming John Baker Day (taking place 7/29, check with Danny or the boys at Ivy Envy for more details on that one) while my kids commandeered the bags boards and made sure to update me on each success.

Our timing was perfect, as we left the tailgate and arrived at the park just in time to find reprieve from the rain that fell for 30 minutes or so. We got the lay of the land, I got a beer, and we found our seats. There were plenty of Cubs fans, though the yellow and black contingent was probably as strong as any other home crowd I’ve seen at a Cubs road game. That included an obnoxiously drunk lady who let everyone know about her unrepentant crush on the Pirates left fielder.

“Marte!” she yelled incessantly when he was in the field. And I’m talking about during the action, as he’s supposed to be playing. That’s cool, lady, I’m sure he’ll acknowledge you during a play.

“But he loves me.”

So that was fun for about six innings, at which point she was either asked to leave or was finally dragged away by the rest of her crew. I was on one of many food/potty runs, so I’m not sure which. Not all the Pirates fans were nearly as off-putting, though. All of them around us were actually pretty great. There were even a few cute emergencies as the blond, pigtailed toddler to our right broke free from her parents to high-five my kids a couple times.

“At least she’s got better taste than her parents,” I non-joked to her father.

Oh, and then there was Random Fact Jack behind us who was a font of information about the Cubs. He seemed like a nice enough guy and most of his information was accurate upon cursory appraisal, but had the cameras been trained on me they’d have seen more than a few eyerolls throughout the game.

“I like the way the Asians hit the ball,” he commented as Munenori Kawasaki came to the plate late in the game. I actually rushed to Twitter to record that one for posterity.

And that’s the thing, being at the game in person was like experiencing it online, only weirder. You have the same Pollyanna die-hards, the same crazy trolls just spouting nonsense (like the kid who kept yelling “1908!” at Kris Bryant), and the same interaction between fans following big plays. Except that I can log off if Twitter gets tiresome. In this case, I just had to sit there and take it all in.

I know, woe is me, right? There were some really great moments, though. In spite of the constant need to get up to chaperone one child or the other, they were both really into the game itself and asked lots of questions. Up to the bitter end, they were cheering for the Cubs. My son, in particular, was jumping up from his seat on nearly every play. By the time we’d made it about halfway back to our hotel, I’d already forgotten about the final score. I just looked at my kids and thanked them for making the trip with me, as if they’d ever really had a choice.

So while it’s increasingly difficult for the blogger in me to be separated from access to the analytics of the game while I’m in attendance, it’s pretty darn cool for the dad in me to be able to tap into the emotion wellspring of baseball. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I need to unplug from writing more often and just dive headlong into the fun. Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.

Now if I can just find a way to do that without dropping mad bank, I’ll really be onto something.

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