Will stands at home plate, bat in hand, eyeing the pitcher. His back elbow is up, the bat is off his shoulder, and his feet are shoulder-width apart — just like we practice in the backyard. The ball comes toward him, he swings, and he misses.
And that’s when things go south. Because if Will doesn’t do things right the first time, he gets pissy. Just like his old man.
Immediately I watch his body language change to express defeat. His elbow drops, the bat languishes on his shoulder, and his feet are together. The next swing is lackadaisical and another miss. The one after that is even worse. Soon he’s just absently swatting at the ball with a frown on his face, forgetting everything we’ve worked on because he didn’t get instant gratification.
Eventually he makes contact and runs down to first base, where he stands on the bag and looks for me on the sidelines. He raises his eyebrows and tentatively gives me a “thumbs up.” He’s seeking my approval, as he does after every single play. I want to give it to him. I really do.
But I don’t this time. Because it’s not deserved, he didn’t try very hard, and I know he can do better.
I don’t remember much about my first trip to Fenway Park.
My first memory is the Green Monster. I had seen it on TV, but in person it loomed like the Great Wall of China to my 7-year-old mind. I remember the rickety wooden seats in the third-base grandstand being ridiculously uncomfortable (some things never change), to the point I had to sit on my red backpack. I remember Roger Clemens was pitching because I had begged my dad to pick a game when the “Rocket” was on the mound. And I remember thinking Fenway Franks taste a million times better than hotdogs at home.
I can’t tell you how many strikeouts Clemens had, what the score was, or even who won. But I’ll always remember being with my dad, because at one point during the game he grabbed my brother and I and said “I always dreamed about taking my boys to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox.”
On Saturday night, it was my turn to live the dream.
You’ve seen them. You’ve heard them. You’ve put up with them. Maybe you are one and don’t even realize it. But whatever the case, annoying fans at live sporting events are the worst!
I don’t say this lightly or without a wealth of experience, and my credentials are beyond reproach.
My father has had New England Patriots season tickets for 39 years, which means I’ve been going to games practically my whole life. I used to go to eight home games a year, until tickets got too expensive. So now I go to a minimum of four games a year. Until this year, my dad also had Boston Celtics season tickets as well, so I have experience at the Garden. Throw in hundreds of Red Sox games and a sprinkling of Bruins games throughout the years, and I’ve pretty much seen it all. The good, the bad and the REALLY obnoxious.
To the untrained eye or the live sporting event rookies, it might not seem like there’s much to know when going to a game. Sit, watch, clap and that’s it right? Wrong. There is a subtle art to being a truly great fan. Which is probably why there are so few great fans out there. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of ass clowns ruining it for the rest of us.
So without further ado, I give you the 9 Most Annoying Sports Fans.
1. THE CELL PHONE TALKER
I hate this person. With a passion. Not only that, I don’t understand him/her. You pay all that money for a ticket, get drunk on $8 beers and instead of watching the game you decide to jump on your cell phone, call your friends and wave every time you’re on camera. Idiot. For the record, the only acceptable time to use your cell phone is during halftime or in between quarters. Even then you’re only allowed to text or check your fantasy team. No conversations. Ever. Because even if they’re not on camera they’re talking on the cell phone and ruining the game for you. My question is, why are they always talking about something uber-personal and inappropriate?
“So I went to the doctor…yeah, I got the results…CHLAMYDIA! Can you believe that shit? No I didn’t wear a rubber…you know I hate how it feels.”
2. THE JUMBO-TRON WHORES
A close cousin of the Cell Phone Talker, these people are equally annoying. While real fans are there to watch their team win, the JTWs are only there to watch themselves on the stadium big screen. You’ll recognize the JTWs easily because they’re either dressed in wacky clothing sure to catch the cameraman’s eye, or they’re dancing. Yup, dancing. During every timeout and break, they launch themselves out of their seats and dance wildly. If they succeed and see themselves on the Jumbo-Tron, the shrieks and screams are deafening. They get 4 seconds of glory and then it’s either back to the beer stand or leave in the third quarter to beat traffic. Either way, they need to be exterminated.
3. SIGN HOLDERS
I swear these idiots always manage to sit in front of me. They bring in a homemade sign that they think is really witty and/or charming, but no one else sees it that way. Normally it’s something to suck up to the network the game is on, like:
So just like the Jumbo-Tron Whores, they stand up at inopportune times during the game and hold up the sign, which blocks the view of the poor people behind them. Rule of thumb: don’t bring a sign to a game. Ever. It won’t be funny, you probably won’t get on TV and you’re going to piss me off to the point that I verbally berate you to the point of tears. Now here’s your sign!
4. THE UP & DOWNERS
Sometimes it feels like all 68,000 people in Gillette Stadium are sitting in my row. Why, you ask? Because they are CONSTANTLY sitting down and then leaving their seat. They sit down then they need some food. They sit down then they need a beer. They sit down and drink their beer and then they have to pee. And pee again. And again. Meanwhile the entire row has to stand up and let them pass each time like we’re in an 80s aerobics class.
That wouldn’t be so bad except they give no thought to the timing of their arrivals and departures. Instead of using some common sense and waiting until a timeout or even in between plays, they decide to inconvenience everyone at the worst possible times. A huge third down in the fourth quarter of a one-score game, the crowd working itself into a frenzy, the center about to hike the ball and then—some douchebag causes the entire row to stand and you end up missing some of the play while simultaneously pissing off everyone behind you.
Stay in your seats or use some common sense, morons!
5. THE STATISTICIAN This guy is a real piece of work.
You can spot him even before he speaks, because he looks like he’s spent the week in his mom’s basement memorizing statistics in order to show off at the game. Even though you’ve made no overture of friendship towards this person, he will seek you out and give you stats you don’t care about and don’t want after every play.
For instance, if I cheer on Tom Brady for a great throw he has to add his two cents by saying “Did you know Brady is completing 67.9% of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 109.5?” Yes, as a matter of fact I did know that. But unlike you, I don’t feel the need to validate my existence with near useless statistical analysis that no one wants to hear about in the heat of a game!
6. THE “STAND UP” GUY Usually it’s good to be a stand up guy. But this guy is not good. Not good at all.
This idiot—usually heavily intoxicated—is convinced that the only way to be a true fan is to stand up at all times to cheer on the team. And he feels it is his mission in life to shout “STAND THE FUCK UP, GET ON YOUR FEET, STAND UP YOU PUSSIES!” in order to fire up the crowd. But what he doesn’t realize is the crowd wants to put him in front of a firing squad.
This jerkoff doesn’t realize that standing and cheering at a game is completely dependent on the action and the situation. In a regular season game, it’s fine to sit except for big moments and huge third downs on defense. I still yell and cheer while I’m sitting, and I know when to stand and when not to. Fans also pay hundreds of dollars for the seat, so why not use it?
7. THE ANNOYING HOUSEWIFE/GIRLFRIEND Call me a sexist if you want to. I don’t care, because this one is very, very true.
Usually this occurs when the only way guys can buy season tickets is if they promise to bring their wives/girlfriends with them to the games. Even though said women have ZERO football knowledge. Needless to say, when they get to the game they become Cell Phone Talkers, Jumbo-Tron Whores and Up & Downers. They’re interested in everything BUT the game. If they do pay attention for a few minutes, they shout idiotic things like “GET A TOUCHDOWN BRADY!” or “WES WELKER IS SO LITTLE AND CUTE!”
The worst is when they talk to each other about their sex lives, their impending purchases and what they wore to their high school reunions. I’ve never seriously considered violence towards women before, but when these hens are clucking in my ear for three hours, I’m seeing red.
8. THE WAY TOO DRUNK GUY Everyone knows this guy. And has probably been this guy at some point (myself included) so I do allow for a little leeway here.
It’s a football game, so drinking is a good thing. Hell, being a little drunk is a plus in my opinion. But if you’ve had a 12-pack out in the parking lot and then a fifth of Jack on the walk to the stadium, you’re going to be a mess. These are the guys who can’t stand up straight so they’re teetering and falling on people during the game. And since they’re drunk they’re loud. Any drunk will tell you the louder they get the funnier they are, and so you have a really drunk guy screaming either inappropriate or unintelligible things. He’s laughing, but we aren’t.
At best he’s a nuisance, at worst he vomits on you. Either way you’re not coming out a winner.
9. THE BEACH BALL/WAVE PEOPLE No beach balls and no wave. Ever.
If you pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket and feel that the best athletes in the world playing at the highest level imaginable is second to batting around an inflatable beach ball, do yourself a favor and just put a gun to your head. Or if that’s too extreme, don’t come to the game. Because we don’t want you. Or your damn beach ball.
Same goes for The Wave. Seriously, it’s not 1987 anymore. The Wave wasn’t even that cool then, and it’s even less so now. I’ve seen people at Fenway Park do the wave in the 8th inning of a one-run game during a pennant race. It makes me sad that people are that idiotic, and it besmirches the name of true Boston sports fans everywhere.
That’s why whenever I get my hands on a beach ball, I pop it. Sometimes the idiots boo me but I don’t care, because the real fans thank me or give me an approving nod for righting an obvious sports wrong.
I have my dad to thank for this because he taught me right. From the time I was little he physically restrained me during the Wave. I didn’t understand it then, but I thank him for it now. To think I could’ve been one of those obnoxious douchebags…I shudder at the thought.
The point is, watch the fucking game. It’s what you’re there for!
If you’re wondering what makes for a great sports fan, here it is:
Be intelligent about the game but not a stat snob. Be happy drunk and not shitfaced. Go to the people around you for high-fives and create good vibes. Sit down except for big plays. If you’re going to yell out taunts to the opposing team, time them right for maximum effect. Talk about the game and nothing else, unless it’s halftime. No beach balls and no Wave, you’re there to watch the game. Ditto with signs. The cell phone should stay in your pocket.
It’s a little belated, but here’s my Father’s Day post which first ran at the Good Men Project.
My 3-year-old son stands on our bed smiling nervously. Squeaking with excitement as he creeps closer and closer to the edge, he peers down at the ground and then at my outstretched arms. No doubt assessing the situation and calculating toddler physics in his head.
I’m daring him to jump to me. He’s not so sure.
For several minutes he looked like he had OCD. Back and forth. Confident then scared. He’d walk to the edge of the bed—in a hilarious looking half-crouch ready to pounce—and then lose his nerve and retreat in a fit of anxious giggles. I just watched with great amusement, held my arms out for him, and smiled. Then I simply uttered “I gotcha.”
Suddenly he left his fears on the bed and flew at me with reckless abandon. I caught him under his arms, held him up, and spun him around while laughing. But after exchanging a hearty high-five, the kid dropped a bombshell on me.
“You always catch me dad.”
I know he meant that I physically catch him every time he jumps off the bed. But to me, at this point in my life, it meant so much more. And it was exactly what I needed to hear.
Two weeks ago I left the comforts of journalism and took a new job. While the paycheck is better, the commute is not. It’s usually around two hours. Each way. Sometimes more. Gone is the flexible scheduling, getting Will dressed in the morning and dropping him off at preschool. No more making dinner together and taking the dog for a walk. With my commute, I’m gone before he’s awake and home an hour before he’s in bed.
I’m officially a part-time parent. And I’m having a hard time adjusting.
My father is my hero. I’ve tried to be like him at every turn. Unfortunately he was seldom around when I was a kid. Although plenty smart enough, he missed the chance to go to college. But he lucked out and got an opportunity to help start a business from the ground up. It required long hours, and that was on top of being a town official.
He was at a selectman’s meeting when I hit my first out of the park home run. My mom was there (because she was SuperMom and there for everything), but the first Little League homer is a uniquely father-son moment.
I had to wait until after the game and we made our way over to Town Hall, where his meeting was in progress. When he noticed us he raised his eyebrows wondering why we were there. I held up the baseball the team had given me, swung an imaginary bat and made the home run signal. His eyes went wide and his face lit up as he smiled. I knew he was proud. But the next face he made had regret and disappointment written all over it. If he was a cartoon, the bubble above his head would’ve read “I can’t believe I missed it.”
Fast forward to the present.
I’ve been a parent for three years, but now everything is different. My wife is temporarily out of work and I’m the breadwinner now. For the first time our family’s survival depends on my paycheck, but my paycheck requires a hellish commute that has me spending more hours in the car on a daily basis than with my son. I’m going to miss things. Things like talking to the preschool teacher everyday and being the “go-to” parent. Little things, but those are always the most important.
When I talked about my feelings recently, my dad chimed in and said “This is the real test of parenting. It’s very tough, and the guilt can be awful. This is where you learn just how tough parenting really is, and just how valuable the years and the moments really are.”
My dad more than made up for the things he missed early on. He’s always been there no matter what. He’s still running a business and he’s still a town official. But whenever I needed something he always found a way. Without fail. He was always there to catch me. Still is.
It’s 8:35 p.m. and I just put my son to bed. That’s not surprising, since I’ve done that almost every night since he was born. But usually when I put him to bed I’ve already spent four hours with him, fed him dinner, played games, given him a bath and read books. And that doesn’t even count our morning routine during which I get him dressed and take him to school.
But that was before I started my new job.
Now I’m awake before 6 a.m. and out the door by 6:30. Usually Will isn’t even up yet. After commuting two hours to my new office I work a full day and then make the two-hour trek back home. Almost the whole trip—71 miles each way—is in gridlock. It’s after 7 p.m. when I finally get home. I’ve missed dinner, which is sad because I know sitting down to a meal together is MJ’s favorite part of the day. No TV, no laptop, no cell phone…just the three of us talking and eating. Together.
By the time I get settled and scarf down leftovers, it’s time for Will’s bath. And 30 minutes later it’s bedtime. Lights out. That’s it.I went from being my son’s primary caregiver to spending two hours a day with him. And not much longer with my wife.
It’s been really tough.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like my new job and all of my co-workers. The commute sucks but I’ve got my podcasts and I’m adjusting to it. But I’m not sure I’ll ever adjust to being a part-time parent. To hearing my 3-year-old ask why I don’t bring him to school anymore and why I can’t come home earlier to see him. It’s disconcerting I’m no longer the one getting daily updates from his preschool teachers, hearing about who he played with or playing his favorite music on the way to and from school.
It got so bad that this morning, while I was getting ready, I kept hoping Will would wake up. And when he didn’t wake up on his own, I “accidentally” made some noise in his room. Just so I could have 15 extra minutes with him.
Making more money is a great thing and I’m proud to provide for my family. But I miss them. Terribly.