Sunday, April 07, 2013

Confessions of a Lifelong Football Fan by Joe Evans

(Editor’s note: When Mike and I started shooting around ideas for our Kickstarter for Fan Interference, we added in some items we thought no one would actually pay for—$2,500 for us to take a pledger to a Yankee game, $1,200 to fly to someone’s home town to take them to a game, $600 to take someone to CitiField for a Mets game and $150 for a bunch of pledge items and the chance to write an essay for the next issue of Zisk. We joked in one email exchange that paying to write for us was more like being put to work than it being a reward. So when we got to the final five days of our Kickstarter run we weren’t surprised no one had chosen it. Then Joe Evans did the $150 pledge—and it sent us over our goal of $3000. It was, to put it bluntly, shocking and awesome at the same time. So we’re proud to give these two pages over to Joe Evans. And thanks again Joe for getting us to our goal.—SR)

    I can only imagine my father’s reaction, him explaining to his young son that because of our family’s season tickets, we’d be able to go to every New York Giants game, surely a dream come true for most boys, only to have it met with an unenthusiastic “ok.”
I’m exaggerating—at first when you’re a child, you’re excited to do anything. Though being thirty pounds, non-athletic, non-competitive and generally introverted, sports didn’t pop on to my radar as much as did for my classmates. I also had an aversion to math along with attention deficit issues, which made the idea of following stats unappealing, as well as inducing a general sense of confusion as to what was going on at any given time. But my Dad was fond of the tradition, and so I soldiered on.
As I got older, I slowly began to appreciate football more—in the comfort of my own home. In recent years, going to a football game meant dealing with dozens upon dozens of drunk, rowdy jerks. My favorite aspect of the game as a child was seeing some of the more enthusiastic fans—some tailgating with full Thanksgiving-level feasts first thing in the morning, some donning costumes that are elaborate as they are nonsensical, such as my distinct memory of, who I presumed to be, a grown man calmly sitting in his seat with a Phil Simms jersey and Giants helmet forced on over a full body gorilla suit. But over time, that all seems to have been gone away in favor of profanities and fist fights. It had reached the point where even taking public transit in the vicinity was too much to handle. All of my feelings towards watching football in person could be summed up with one sentence overheard on a crowded game day train: “I was so drunk I didn’t even realize they barfed on me—and I got a free shirt!” I was positive that live sporting events weren’t for me—until I was introduced to minor league baseball.

    I’d been thinking about checking out a game for years, but never actually went through with it until going on a date last summer. The young lady I was courting and I decided to spend a day at Coney Island, wandering up and down the boardwalk before heading over to a Brooklyn Cyclones game. Unfortunately we’d misjudged the starting time just enough that we missed out on the chance to score free bobbleheads depicting mascot Sandy the seagull, but just knowing that they existed were already giving me high hopes.
While the ticket window cashier had said “this is the best I can do for you,” we walked up the stairs and over to our seats to find that we had fairly close seats, with a perfect view of the field, not to mention the ocean, boardwalk and other iconic rides like the Cyclone and Wonderwheel. I’d also noticed on the way up that we were in “MCU Park,” sponsored by the local credit union, which was a welcome change from the typical huge corporate sponsors I was used to from football, like the current MetLife Stadium. I was also a little surprised because looking around the rest of the stands, there was actually space—you could actually stretch out a little bit, instead of having people practically on top of each other. It obviously wasn’t full, but there were plenty of locals, many of whom were families with children.
It quickly became apparent that families are the target audience in minor league baseball, or at least at Cyclones games. In between innings we constantly found ourselves presented with singing, dancing, racing (ranging from dizzy-bat to moped to anthropomorphized hot dogs), and at one point quesadilla’s wrapped in t-shirts being launched into the stands (which while we hoped for, we sadly weren’t able to catch). In return, people actually laughed, smiled, and cheered, contrasting the screaming and cursing I was used to from football. Though, it had also helped that the Cyclones were winning—with my own attitude changing from “I guess we’ll see what happens,” to “our team is winning!”
Even after the game finished up, my date and I decided to stick around for the post-game fireworks show, which was to take place after more audience lotteries and raffles. Since it was starting to get a little late we weren’t sure if we wanted to stay, when suddenly a lone firework went up. “Is that it?” we asked each other, before suddenly being treated to one of the biggest and most glorious fireworks shows we’d ever seen, seemingly only a few mere feet away to boot. Everything seemed brighter in front of the now illuminated carnival rides, the noise amplified by the field setting, and we practically felt the leftover ash falling down upon us. I was in awe.
Though we walked with the intention of just casually getting to know each other better, but we left as Cyclones fanatics, and now my girlfriend and I eagerly await our annual Cyclones games.

Joe Evans is a writer and musician from New Jersey.

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