March 03, 2005

Bits and Pieces

Today's Musical Selection: "Papercuts" by Organized Rhyme

I'm pretty busy tonight, but a couple thoughts on the past few days.

Yesterday, the Nationals played their spring-training exhibition opener. I took a long lunch and headed down to ESPN Zone to catch a few innings. And as Fan Club president, you can't just sit and watch the game. I gave interviews to the local Fox and NBC stations, which appeared on the air multiple times yesterday evening and this morning. (Common refrain from today: "Hey, you were on TV!" Being in the newspapers and on radio is nice, but apparently being on TV make you a celebrity.)

If you've been to an ESPN zone, you may be familiar with the setup: giant TV, banks of normal-sized auxiliary TVs on either side, tables in tiered levels facing the Wall of Television, and a row of recliners in front. I was seated in Recliner Row next to an attractive young woman. (By the way, ever wonder what they could possibly show on 20 TV sets in a sports bar on a Wednesday afternoon in March? Well, I found out: on one set, they were showing televised curling. Yes, curling. If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'.)

The young woman seemed to have been there for some time, and appeared settled in for the long haul. She was knowledgable about the team (she knew who Jamey Carroll was, for Pete's sake), but not as passionate as some fans I've seen. So in between innings, I asked if she was a baseball fan.

"Yeah," she said, "I'm a fan of the Nationals."

She said she was new in town. I told her how I'd waited for this all my life. She seemed excited to know about this. We chit-chatted a while longer, and then returned our attention to the game.

The TV guys had told me that they were waiting for the Nationals to score before they started interviewing, and it was starting to look like this might take a while. It was 0-0 in the 4th, and the Mets drew first blood with a couple runs off young Mike Hinckley and a shaky defense. I was growing a bit anxious that the length of my lunch mught draw notice at work, but I decided to stick it out a little while longer.

Lo and behold, in the bottom of the fourth we got a man on and Jose Guillen parked one to right to tie the score. As is my wont, I shouted "Get out! Get out!" and thrust my arms in the air and shouted and clapped when it went out. The attractive young woman seemed tickled by my enthusiasm.

So down came the NBC crew. They thrust a mike and a camera at me and asked a few questions. In the course of the interview, I mentioned that I was president of the Fan Club. This sparked the young woman's interest, and after the camera crew moved off she said, "Well, I guess I can tell you that I'm [someone someone's] girlfriend."

Alas. I hadn't heard who [someone someone] was, but I assumed it was a Fan Club member who'd mentioned my name. So I asked her to repeat herself, so I could relay my best wishes to the member.

"I'm Nick Johnson's girlfriend," she said. For those who don't know, Nick Johnson is the Nationals' first baseman.

Talk about a tough act to follow.

I recovered, though, and we had a nice chat. She said Nick and the rest of the team are really excited to have passionate home crowds to play for. "You guys have sold 20,000 season tickets already. That's unreal. In Montreal, we were lucky if we had that many people in 3 games."

She said that Nick's working with a new strength and flexibility coach that GM Jim Bowden brought with him from Cincinnati, and that it's helping him a lot. I told her about the running gag Papa Shaft and I have on MVP 2005, in which Nick keeps finding ways to get hurt, such as hitting a home run and breaking his hand high-fiving the first-base coach. She laughed and said, "That's so true!"

All in all, it was a glorious day for a lot of reasons. Being able to look at the screen and see "WSH" in the line score, and see our boys resplendent in their home whites... well, it was a day to remember. Finally, after all our wishing and hoping and struggling, baseball really is back. I said to myself, "Pinocchio, you're a real boy now."

Yesterday was quite a chnage from Tuesday. On Tuesday, we were still recovering from the snowstorm that, even though it was more hype than action, still dumped a good 5 inches on my neck of the woods. The parking lot was a slushy mess in the morning. It was passable for cars, but not for pickup trucks. At least not pickup trucks without a load in the back. I know this because I saw a truck get stuck at the bottom of the slope in our lot. The driver was apparently a memver of the gun-it-till-your-transmission's-fried school, which meant he kicked up plenty of noise and smoke, but not much movement. I decided to get behind and help push him out, as did another fellow in the lot. We made excruciatingly slow and slippery progress, but we did make progress, and eventually we got the truck on its way.

The other fellow turned to shake my hand. "Nice work," he said. "I'm Ben."

Ben! He seemed familiar... and then I placed him. He was the guy who showed up at my door looking for a lift in the middle of the night last summer, the one who inspired my post on the death of neighborliness. He looked a lot less threatening in a fleece jacket instead of a wife-beater. I was glad to learn that Ben really does live in my neighborhood, and that he's a good Samaritan as well. Score one for my faith in humanity.

That's all for today. Your thoughts tomorrow!

Posted by Fred at March 3, 2005 10:55 PM

I'm glad you had such a great time at the ESPN Zone. Myself, not being a very big traditional sports fan, HATED the ESPN Zone. We went to dinner there (fulfilling a fantasy of Frinklin's) while in Aneheim last September. The food was nasty, the service bit, and the noise was unbelieveable. I suppose I shouldn't complain, as it is a sports bar.

That's cool that you ran into your random neighbor again. The story comes full circle...or something...

Posted by: ensie at March 3, 2005 11:14 PM

I think I went to an ESPN Zone in Baltimore once. It was during the afternoon and I played video games . I liked it. I spent a lot of money.

But, dude, good job with the woman! You are going places, man. It was good practice. You know that simply chatting with her made you more attractive to any other women in the place, right?

Keep on getting out there and good things are coming your way!

Posted by: Tripp at March 4, 2005 03:01 PM

Glad to hear you had such a good time.

Also interesting to run into your old friend. Maybe meeting him in that situation was less intimidating than him showing up at your house at the middle of the night.

Posted by: Brett at March 5, 2005 11:33 AM
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