“U going to Dave’s wedding???”
This text came over at 8:38 p.m. on Tuesday night. It was from my high school friend, Jeff, who has since relocated to Cincinnati. Jeff moved down to Cincy right after we graduated college. When I was in Ashland and he was at Kent, hanging out was a quick trip down I-76. Cincinnati isn’t all that far from Cleveland, all things considered, but while a handful of us would make the occasional trip, those slowed considerably once we all hit our 30s.
Hanging out with Jeff is always a bit of a roll of the dice. Some nights can be low key, just a few beers and guys shooting the shit. Other nights, you may end up at the casino while having no plans to even be downtown 20 minutes prior. You may have an idea of where you’re going to sleep, but you would be wise to make sure you have a few ticks remaining on that cell phone battery just in case you need an Uber. Girls love him — love him — for a few months at a time, but then his three softball leagues, golf league, bowling league, and sand volleyball league typically catch up to him. Every one of our parents love him, always inquiring as to how he is every time they catch wind he’s in town. He’s in sales.
“I’ll be down at the Indians game Friday if you want to meet up.”
The week was shaping to be a long one, and I had hopes of being super productive on Saturday. But Dave’s wedding is in the late afternoon, so even if things get a little carried away on Friday night, I would be fine.
“Standing room only tickets.”
OK. Count me in.
I would meet Jeff at roughly 6:55 p.m. on Friday. I had texted him to let him know I made it into the stadium, but hadn’t heard back. I’d find him over near The Corner — natch — with a souvenir mug full of Miller Lite in his hand. I snuck up behind him and cupped his cans as any 36-year-old would. We did the bro hug thing and immediately started catching up.
He had been in town since about 1 p.m. and decided he’d try and get downtown early to catch some batting practice. With the Yankees in town, watching Aaron Judge take BP is a spectacle in and of itself. Little did Jeff know (as he had not been to The Jake in a bit) was that there would be $2 Miller Lites between 5:30 p.m. and the first pitch, slated for 7:05 p.m. Things were already looking up.
After he finished what was left in his clear, plastic mug, I asked what he wanted to drink. First round would be on me. We walked into The Corner’s inside bar, snagged some Summer Shandys1 and simply meandered back to the spot in which we were standing, almost directly under where the garage doors would be in the event some unfortunate weather were to hit.
This pattern would continue on for a bit as we caught up on life. Family. Work. Softball. Mid-discussion, we hear a crack of the bat and a roar from the Progressive Field crowd. We creep up to the back of the mass of people standing near the drink rails and take advantage of both being north of 6-feet tall to see Carlos Santana score as Austin Jackson was wheeling around the bases. Neither of us had any idea where the ball was hit or how Santana got on base to begin with, but hey — a run. As luck would have it, we’d still be standing there when Jaime Garcia would toss a 1-2 slider to the backstop, allowing Jackson to score. Quickly it was 2-0, and we had witnessed roughly 25 seconds of actual baseball.
We’d get another beer about 45 minutes later, which was when Jeff decided he wanted to go buy a coat. Jeff has a tendency to spend a ton of money at team shops, oftentimes aided by beverages. This is more common at Cleveland Browns Stadium where on-field jackets are huge in terms of merchandise sales, but this night was a bit different. Everyone was in short sleeves, as it was August and all, but it started to get unseasonably cold. The wind wasn’t helping. He would head to the team shop along the first base line for about 20-25 minutes and come back with a pretty sweet Under Armour pullover with Block C branding.
“How much was that? I like it.”
“Not bad. I may go snag one myself,” I said as I attempted to tough it out in my polo.
This lasted about 15 minutes before I decided to head to the team shop myself. By this point, it was a mad house as it was clear I was not the only individual to have been ill-prepared for November in August. By this point, those $60 Under Armour pullovers were long gone. There was, however, a heavier pullover with blue sleeves and a bright red Block C on the left side of the chest. I pull the tag out to see what I was looking at. The brand was obscure. It was $75.
I quickly scan the surrounding areas and see little to no long-sleeved apparel. At this point, I should remind everyone that my week was absurd, so while I had thoughts of purchasing a ticket to the game, it wasn’t until an email from the team came across my inbox reporting that both Friday and Saturday night’s games were officially sold out that I realized I would be swimming upstream. SRO seats, at this point, we going for about $40 after fees and such nonsense on the secondary market, but I was willing to chalk the premium up to my lack of execution. Add this to the beers, and the possibility of another $75 for this pullover… Aw, eff it — it’s tax-free weekend after all.
By this time, it’s about 8:50 p.m. and I spotted the Market Garden Brewery stand right outside the team shop. The line wasn’t too bad, and the few people in front of me were simply ordering a few beers. I needed food as I had come straight from a work meeting back downtown without anything in the way of dinner butting itself in between. I ordered Nano Sliders, a delicious new offering at the stadium this season which you may have heard about, gave the woman my debit card, and went over to the other side to wait for the food to be provided. Roughly five minutes later, the woman running the grill informed me that it would be several more minutes as they had literally zero food ready to be provided to customers in the middle of a sold out baseball game. I asked her what my options were, and she said I could get a refund or wait. My time was a sunk cost at this point, so I stuck it out. (Don’t get me wrong: These burgers were delicious. This situation, however, was a load of crap.)
I make my way back to The Corner to meet back up with Jeff. I inhaled my sliders right before he would find a stand serving draft beers from Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist Brewery, and couldn’t pass up the moment of transient civic pride. Two “Truths”, please. By this point, the Indians had amassed a 6-1 lead. Don’t ask me how. Trevor Bauer was still pitching deep in to the game, which was a pleasant surprise. By this point, we were both feeling pretty good and decided that $12 beers weren’t in our best interest any longer, so Jeff brought up the idea of getting a seat at one of the high-top tables on the Thirsty Parrot patio for a better view of the fireworks. Why not?
According to the timestamp on a picture I took of the Larry Doby statue outside of the stadium, we walked through the gate on E. 9th street at roughly 9:45 p.m., exactly 10 minutes before the game’s final pitch. I’m usually staunchly opposed to leaving games before they’re over. In fairness, the game would have ended much sooner had Bryan Shaw not needed 19 pitches (the exact amount needed by Joe Smith and Tyler Olsen, combined) and I wasn’t doing anything lame like trying to “beat traffic” or whatever. I was going to continue on with my night at an establishment that otherwise doubles as the after-hours spot for every weekend (and some weeknight) Tribe games.
The Corner would have, come this point, claimed another victim. The discounted Miller Lites got Jeff their early. The atmosphere from that point forward turned that space into more of a sports bar with a game in the background than the actual game itself. There was no tweeting.2 There were no Instagram uploads. It was conversation and laughs and a few select purchases.
Oh, by the way — that same wind that forced me to drop $75 on a new pullover would also be enough for the team to cancel that night’s fireworks show. Shrugs all around, but a few high fives as well.3
This Week in #ActualSportswriting:
- “Finding Darko” by Sam Borden (ESPN/E:60)
- “Six-Man Forever” by Elizaberth Merrill (ESPN)4
- “Beer Chugging, Cliff Golfing and Pranks: Tom Brady at 40” by Mike Reiss (ESPN)5
- “The Woman Who Sleeps Across From Minute Maid Park” by Hunter Atkins (Houston Chronicle)
This Week in #ActualNonsportswriting:
- “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation” by Janet M. Twenge (The Atlantic)
- “How Two Brothers Turned Seven Lines of Code into a $9.2 Billion startup” by Ashley Vance (Bloomberg Businessweek)
- “Losing it in the Anti-Dieting Age” by Taffey Brodesser-Akner (NY Times Magazine)
This Week in Announcements:
- Good news: While others are “pivoting to video,” we’re still writing things! You can continue to support WFNY in any way you feel comfortable. Head to our Patreon page to check it out. We have some additional opportunities coming up for Patrons, so please consider jumping in. These dollars are immensely helpful as we’re going to be experiencing even more change in the coming months. We won’t bore you now, but know that we appreciate everything you guys have done.
- Subscribe to our Newsletter and get the occasional blast of original content or items you may have missed during certain stretches of time. Browns season is coming up, so there will be plenty to discuss.
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- Shout out to Zac Jackson. [↩]
- Outside of my passive-aggressive complaint about the shitty service at Market Garden. [↩]
- Yes, we both made it home safely. Dave’s wedding was also a blast. [↩]
- This is awesome [clap clap clap-clap-clap]. [↩]
- So, yeah—a ton of great stuff from ESPN this week. Maybe the switch to debate embracing was overblown? [↩]