Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sight Seeing in Coney Island

Last night I had the good fortune of getting a ticket to a Brooklyn Cyclones game. Brooklyn thumped New Jersey 9-1, scoring in six of their eight turns at bat and forcing the Cardinals to make four errors. It was a sloppy, lopsided win with constant action, but what was happening on the field paled compared to what was happening in the stands.

My favorite sight was the group of teenagers the Cyclones have hired to serve as cheerleaders. There are no cheerleaders in baseball, you say? Agreed, typically there aren't, nor should there be, but stick with me here because if there's one demographic that's completely incapable of masking their boredom it's the teen set and the Cyclones cheerleaders are, remarkably, delightfully, indifferent toward the idea of rousing a crowd's interest in a game. They spent most of the game perched atop the dugout and despite this being mid-August, acted as if they'd never set foot inside a Cyclones game before. When Cardinals pitcher Chris Clem got the hook in the fifth inning, the stadium P.A. blasted Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack." This was the cheerleaders' chance to shine, an unscheduled game delay that wasn't filled with a sausage race or cheese cake eating contest; the spotlight was theirs to take. When we heard the Raylettes singing their part of "Hit the Road Jack," the girl cheerleader wagged her finger at the boy cheerleader, and when Ray sang his part, the cheerleaders reversed roles, the dude cheerleader half-heartedly giving his lady counterpart "what for." They were smirking and fumbling and THEY COULD DO NO BETTER THAN MUMBLE THE WORDS TO THE DAMN SONG! The Cyclones have played 29 home games and it's safe to say the cheerleaders have heard "Hit the Road Jack" at least once a game (not to mention the dozens of times they've encountered the tune in their civilian lives), and they've yet to memorize the lyrics or work out any choreography that rises above half-assed. It's like their moms told them they had to stay in on a Friday night and do laundry, and their lack of enthusiasm was hysterical.

The topper came two innings later. The Cyclones had runners on second and third with one out. Their lead was comfortable but not insurmountable. The tension was rising; a hit would plate two runs and break the game wide open. If ever there was a time for cheerleaders at a ballgame to work the crowd into a frenzy, this was it. And where was our faitful duo? Sitting on the dugout, talking with friends in the front row, their backs turned to the game. Just as the pitch was being delivered the guy cheerleader laid down and pretended to take a nap.

But despite the lack of direction from the pep squad, the Brooklyn faithful were very much tuned into the game. They responded to every hit; they made noise whenever a Cyclones pitcher got two strikes on a hitter; they cheered manager Mookie Wilson every time he walked onto the field. This was a smart crowd, a crowd that knew their baseball, none more so than the guys sitting next to my friend Brian and me. They had John Candy physiques but wore Rick Moranis-size t-shirts, and clearly they didn't believe in using bleach when washing their whites. Their eye glasses had lenses you can only get from NASA, and they each had a radio-only walkman, the bulky kind I got for Christmas back in 1982. These are my kind of fans, practical dudes unfazed by how others perceive them and, apparently, dudes who are also painfully hard of hearing. Each of them set their dial to a different game--dude on the right was tuned into the Mets/Pirates game, while the dude on the left was listening to the Yankees/Devil Rays game--and cranked the volume on their cinder block-size walkman. As we all know there's little fun in listening to a game and keeping the updates to yourself, you want to share the fun with those around you, and given that these guys couldn't hear themselves they wound up broadcasting to everyone in our section what they thought about the game they were watching and the games they were listening to.

Dude on the right: "That's it, Beltran, baby, scoring from first on a single, baby! That's why we signed you! You don't need no surgery!"

Dude on the left: "That's right, A-Rod, you did just leave another guy on base, and yeah, you're playing the D-Rays. Putz!"

News of every Mets highlight and Yankees miscue was gleefully reported and punctuated with a high-five. Hundreds of us were able to follow three games at once and it was awesome.

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