I WENT TO SEE THE TIGERS PLAY IN GAME THREE LIVE IN PERSON AT COMERICA PARK!
"So, did you have fun? How was it?"
Some questions just can't be answered on twitter, even with serial tweets that ignore the character limits and YELLING IN ALL CAPS. Too much to say, too many feelings and emotions to fit in small spaces or even answer when someone asks me in person. At least in person they can see how I couldn't stop smiling about my experience.
This is one full ballpark. (via Baroque97)
Holy cow, was it EVER an experience. Best spur of the moment decision I have ever made. Like so many other Tiger fans, I was trying not to keel over and die of playoff-baseball-related heart failure in the first two games in three days, just wishing and hoping and begging the universe for a split and the chance to not get swept out of the playoffs. I had no realistic expectation of going to any games in Detroit at all. I work full time, on Monday and Wednesday afternoon I take vacation time off from work so I can take a chemistry class at Saginaw Valley State University and work toward a second degree, I live a two hour drive away from Comerica Park. And of course, I had no tickets, so it was clearly not happening at all. Not ever. No way.
Except, after the split in New York against the Yankees, I felt the overwhelming urge to BE THERE. I HAD TO SEE THEM IN PERSON. A Detroit Tiger playoff game is on my bucket list, and when else am I going to get the opportunity? My class is out on Monday by 3:00 pm, I could drive down there and meet friends before the game. Sure I will be up late, but heck, I'm a night person anyway. I did that all the time in college, and managed to function just fine the day after a late night. Why the heck not?
Predictably, when I mentioned I was insane for considering finding a ticket and driving down there to see it, no one on twitter discouraged me. Or on Bless You Boys. Clearly I was asking the wrong people to talk sense to me.
Sunday evening, I found a single bleacher seat, reconsidered for a moment if this was a smart thing to do, then entered my credit card number and email address, hit submit, and went to the gas station to fill up the tank for the long drive to Detroit and back. Then back to my normal playoff mode of feeling constantly like I'm about 30 seconds from vomiting and having trouble breathing and every muscle in my body being so tense if I stood in a draft I would twang like a taut guitar string. I love the playoffs.
Monday the ticket showed up in my email inbox for download, I printed it off, and immediately my hands started shaking. After class I tossed the stuff I wouldn't need in my trunk, set off toward the southeast, and started driving to meet some more internet friends and stress with company before the game. The original plan was to meet up and grab something to eat before the game, but we were all too nervous to eat anything. It is true, what you read in novels. When you are stressed enough food really DOES taste like sawdust in your mouth no matter how much you would normally enjoy it.
After conversation that seemed to be entirely a group of baseball fans talking about how nervous we all were, we dispersed to our seats. I've been to several games at Comerica Park, and had never sat in the bleachers before, but this time I wanted to be closer to the field than an upper deck seat. Section 150, row C, right behind the Yankee bullpen. Close enough to hear the taunting from the fans, and there was a lot of it. "C.C.'s fat!" "C.C. are you hungry?" "C.C. do you want some nachos?" "I'm making a doughnut run, C.C. do you want a dozen?" Grade school stuff (nothing racist or homophobic, and not personal either), and nothing they haven't heard before, but it was relentless. The crowd in general was loud and excited in that area under the scoreboard although I'm not sure how much came through on television. It's always interested me how little crowd noise actually comes through on a broadcast compared to being there in person, and how quickly people criticize a crowd for not being sufficiently enthusiastic based on such limp evidence.
Verlander is blurry because I was shaking from nerves. (via Baroque97)
I was close enough to see Justin Verlander warming up by tossing the ball back and forth to Alex Avila. Close enough to hear the enormous roar as everyone stood up to applaud when JV walked out to the bullpen. I heard that TBS didn't show the player introductions, so the viewers couldn't hear the ovations the Tigers got from the fans. Everyone got cheers of course, but a few players got louder ovations than others. Jose Valverde, Alex Avila, and Doug Fister got a few more cheers than the average Tiger, Max Scherzer got a very warm welcome for his efforts in game 2, Miguel Cabrera got an enormous ovation from a crowd on its feet, and the roar for Justin Verlander felt like it shook the ballpark. I think in general the term "electric" as a description for a loud and enthusiastic crowd is overused...but you really could feel a tingle of electricity in the air, as though all the nerve impulses of the fans couldn't be contained and were leaking out of their bodies and charging the atmosphere around them. It's hard to describe, but easy to feel. It was hard to breathe, I was so tense, and my hands were shaking like I was going through withdrawal.
Then the game happened, and everyone knows how that went because they watched it. Experiencing it in the ballpark is so much more intense than on television. When things were not going well for the Tigers everyone was relatively quiet and most were sitting in their seats, but it didn't take much for someone to start a "Let's go, Tigers!" chant and have the entire section join in. When things were going well for the Tigers no one was sitting down, everyone was applauding and cheering, and it sounded like being inside a crashing wave. It didn't come through on the broadcast nearly as much as it did live, but the "MVP! MVP! MVP!" chants for Justin Verlander were frequent and they were deafening. I think they started in the section I was sitting in, too. Every two-strike count brought the fans to their feet. During the fifth inning no one sat down and the crowd noise was fantastic. This is why I hate loud music at sporting events, especially in enclosed areas like ice rinks. Don't drown out the enthusiasm of the crowd with fake excitement. They don't NEED it. Just encourage them to cheer and let them take over, because if you can't hear yourself think because of a collective effort that you are a part of creating the feeling is entirely different (and far more pleasant) than if you can't hear yourself think because of the decisions and musical choices of the facility management.
The hardest thing about being at the game is not having an escape from the tension. At home, watching on television, a person can get up and pace around, or go to the kitchen for a snack, or filter the game through your fingers, or in extreme distress switch the channel until the inning is over. There you have no choice but to watch while your heart is exploding as the Tigers take the lead, and then being squeezed in a vise when they lose it, then you think you will have a heart attack when they hang onto a one run lead late despite the closer letting runners get on base. The best thing is that at least you are with other people feeling the same emotions you are. If misery loves company, so does excitement. You don't feel strange cheering for Don Kelly when in line for the restroom because everyone else is keeping one eye on the television screen to see the action too. You don't feel odd bouncing up and down like a sugar-crazed child because the Tigers get a lead because the people next to you are doing the same thing. You can cheer on Verlander and boo Rafael Soriano as he warms up and feel less odd because at least you can actually be heard and you aren't just yelling at the television.
On the other hand, I'm not much for roller coasters, and that game was an emotional one. The high after the Tigers took a 3-2 lead on the RBI by Ramon Santiago (which came right at me) in the fifth inning after Verlander's amazing pitching was such an amazing high, and then the low after the Yankees tied the game in the seventh was horrible. The crowd wasn't discouraged, though. There was some muttering, a few quiet "shits" and "fucks" and then the "Let's go, Tigers" chants started up again, partly to support the team and partly to drown out "Derek Jeter" chants from some Yankee fans the next section over.
And then the Tigers took the lead for good and managed to hold it despite Jose Valverde trying, as far as I could tell, to break the world record for "most heart attacks occurring simultaneously in an outdoor sports venue." I lost my voice at that point screaming about the win, partly in celebration and partly just in relief that I managed to survive the experience. All the emotions that a fan feels watching on television are magnified by at least a factor of 20 when you are in the ballpark to see it live, but all the normal defense mechanisms such as going in the next room or changing the channel are removed and you get the raw emotions delivered straight to your heart with no filter as a limitation.
I was slightly apprehensive about being in the bleachers, because I didn't want a place so rowdy I couldn't concentrate on the game. The fans were great, though. Loud, enthusiastic, vocal, and the only time that some of them crossed the line a bit was taunting David Robertson warming up. Most of the taunts I am sure they have heard before, but "you're a poor man's Brad Penny! And that's really bad!" was probably a new one (and in the opinion of his friends, it was a little harsh).
Oddly enough, for all the talk of how big Verlander's fastball is, the biggest cheers came from his breaking pitches. Seeing a ball drop in and freeze the batter is even more impressive in person than on television. Also, just as a random observation, Delmon Young looks just as awkward fielding in person as he does on television. He gives the impression that he is about to drop every ball that comes in his direction, even though he doesn't. It's incredibly annoying.
By the time I made the drive home and got to my own bed it was three in the morning. I was exhausted but too wired to sleep well, I'd gone through most of a tank of gas, put in four more hours of driving than on a normal Monday, I was hoarse from yelling, every muscle in my body was sore from the tension and trying not to shake too much out of nervousness - and it was BY FAR the best spur of the moment decision I have ever made in my life. Also far fewer repercussions than doing something like eloping to Vegas on a whim - but since I can't actually marry baseball, that will never happen. For the best, really, as baseball is polygamous and doesn't belong to just one person.
So, did I have fun? And how was it?
Yes, yes I did have fun. And it was even more exciting than I thought it would be.
End result of Game Three. The crowd was pleased. :) (via Baroque97)