Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Midsummer Night's Rant

I'm way overdue to go ballistic in writing but it's frankly been a pretty mellow summer marked by only the occasional episodes of road rage and my recent attempt to get a golf cart airborne with my pitching wedge (that worked-out great). But that all changed last weekend with a Leo Getz experience* I had on Saturday afternoon that reaffirmed almost everything I believe about the current state of humanity. (SPOILER ALERT: It ain't good). This rant actually began as a tersely worded email to the offending party but then I said hey, "why write to just one person when I can write to a whole bunch of people?" And then the FGW said, "hey, stop talking to yourself again. You're really starting to freak me out." Let the healing begin.

"So which client should I 
bill these two hours to?"
It all began last summer when we made the decision to unload our Ravens season tickets meaning that we were cutting ties with the NFL. The FGW and I had some memorable (and some not so memorable) times over those seventeen years with the peak coming during a five year pre-kid stretch when we could walk from our front door to our seats in 15 minutes passing at least a dozen bars on our journey. The walk home from the more electrifying 1:00 p.m. games often involved multiple layovers, took the better part of eight hours and yielded some brutal Mondays. 

By last year, however, the following factors dictated that I sit down with the NFL and explain "it's not you . . . it's me": (1) As a guy who now prefers to watch football with his kids, I didn't want to go to the games without them, (2) at $110 per ticket plus parking and food, we had been priced out of the market, (3) the in-stadium NFL experience absolutely sucks for families* and (4) Redzone was born. Now instead of frantically scrambling to the stadium to blow three lease payments on a Kia Sorrento, we hit the basement on Sundays at 12:58 p.m., sandwiches, chips and drinks in hand and countdown those last ten seconds before Scott Hanson presents the greatest cornucopia that televised sports has to offer. It's only been one season but I'm comfortable saying that the remorse I feel about ditching my football tickets ranks slightly above the remorse I feel for every shitty job I've left in my wake (and that is not a small sample size).

OK now flash forward to October of 2014 and game 2 of the Orioles-Tigers playoff series. I fell into four tickets for the afternoon game so I yanked the kids out of school and headed to the park. After being held pretty much in check by Justin Verlander and the Tigers' bullpen for most of the game, the O's trailed 6-4 with one out in the bottom of the 8th when Delmon Young came up with the bases loaded. And then this happened. It was the most jacked-up sports crowd I've ever been a part of and I'm not exaggerating when I say that it literally made me a baseball fan again to the point that I signed-up for 2015 season tickets that week just so I'd be guaranteed seats for the remainder of the playoffs and beyond. (Impulse control is not one of my strong suits).

The balance of the 2014 playoffs did not go as planned with the O's getting swept by the Royals in the ALCS but I was still fired-up to be a season ticket holder for 2015 and for the first four and a half months of the season, everything went swimmingly. We made it to a handful of games, spread a few extra tickets around to friends, picked-up a couple of Buck Showalter garden gnomes and were thoroughly enjoying the experience . . . until last Saturday's autograph day for season ticket holders (uh oh).

So let's jump right in and start with the essence of the pitch from the O's marketing department for this event. "All 81 and 29 game season ticket holders can enter the park at 3:30 for an autograph session with the players that will begin at 3:45 and end at 4:30." Now I have no idea how many season ticket holders there are but I stupidly assumed that the O's did and that they also had some well-reasoned theories based on experience about how long it would take for that many people to get one (ONE!!!) autograph. I even hedged my bet and told my kids to forget about Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Adam Jones to ensure that we wouldn't get left out in the cold or, in this case, the heat. So we went for the station that featured closer Zach Britton and a couple other players that no one outside of Rosedale, MD could pick out of a lineup.  

Well that explains it.
At this point it should be noted that one of the great joys of being me is that I possess a mental timepiece so accurate that you could shake me out of a drunken coma at 4:17 a.m. and, in a second, I could guess what time it is to within five minutes. It's kind of like walking around with the clock from 24 ticking in your head but instead of trying to stop terrorist plots, you're trying to make it to your kid's Christmas show so you'll have a fucking seat this year. The effect is that you spend most of your life wearing this expression because you're always calculating and recalculating what you need to get done and the time you don't have left to do it.

So that's what I started doing when we got in the autograph line and I could immediately tell we were in trouble. The nimrods in charge actually tried to take some of the grind out of waiting by having us line-up in the seats instead of standing but any convenience that provided was extinguished by the fact that I was on the end where next to the usher and to describe him as a colossal unapologetic dickhead would be to grossly understate his warm welcoming persona. Instead of Joe Pesci from Lethal Weapon 2, think Joe Pesci from Casino . . . "hey kid, if you don't make it in time, I'll sign your jersey courtesy of Carmine P. Gofuckyourself."

But the constipated usher wasn't even the main target of my ire. No, that was directed at the thousands of "adults" who had jammed the place looking for autographs. It was also J.J. Hardy jersey giveaway night and it was only available in "One Size Fits Norm Peterson" so half of the people between me, my kids and Zach Britton were waddling around in an orange shirt that's the size of a spinnaker and looks like it was made out of the leftover polyester from the American Hustle wardrobe department. (I plan to use mine to put out grease fires on my grill). By the time the actual game rolled around and 15,000 people were wearing them, the stadium looked like a chemically engineered pumpkin farm gone horribly wrong. 

But back to the autograph hounds. Now I'm not going to say I've never asked for an autograph as an adult because I did one time when I was in a liquor store and I heard the smooth southern drawl that could only belong to Monday Night Football announcer Don Meredith so I asked him to sign a six-pack of Budweiser for me and he happily obliged. (I maintained possession of that autograph for almost an hour). The difference is that I didn't seek it out and I sure as hell didn't wait in line for it. I think the rule is fairly simple. If you want to call yourself a man, you do not wait in line to ask another man for his signature unless it's on a check, a contract or a court order. Period. 

"And never drink brown
liquor after midnight."
You've probably guessed the end of this story by now. After a 45 minute wait, we still weren't even in sight of the players when they shut it down and not even the FGW's uncanny ability to turn chicken shit into chicken salad could save the day. At that point I got to look at my kids and apologize because you can bet no one from the Orioles was going to to do it. In the end it will just go down as another teaching moment in the ongoing course called "Life is Full of Disappointments When You Put Yourself at the Mercy of Incompetent Fucktards so Control Your Own Destiny Whenever Possible: 101."


* As part of my perpetuation of the delusion that I actually have readers under the age of 40, I feel compelled to explain that Leo Getz is a character played by Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2, one of the five best movie sequels of all-time that also produced one of the most epic rants on shitty customer service. It's as relevant today as it was when Pesci unleashed it twenty-six years ago.

** The last time I took my kids to a football game was in 2013. While waiting in line for one of the two "family" bathrooms with my then nine year old son, we encountered two drunk jackass twenty somethings who didn't feel like waiting for the men's room and another older "gentleman" who thought it would be appropriate to engage my son in a way too serious debate about whether the Ravens were better than the Colts. I could tolerate the drunks because I've almost been that guy (if you count the time I darted into the ladies' room in a moment of dire need) but I finally had to get face to face with the jerkoff and say in my best slow monotone "I'm capable of anything right now" voice "stop . . . talking . . . to my kid." That made the remainder of the wait a bit icy. Meanwhile, the useless joker on the stool by the door in the yellow shirt with "STAFF" written on it who was presumably supposed to be proctoring this whole family bathroom situation just sat there with his thumb up his ass. As we exited, I patted him on the shoulder and encouraged him to "keep up the good work." 

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