Academic journal article Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature

Out of Play

Academic journal article Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature

Out of Play

Article excerpt

Bring your kiddies. Bring your wife. Guaranteed to have the time of your life! It was a dumb song, and my friends who were Yankees fans always gave me hell about how stupid it was to have a theme song, especially one that sounded like a kid's cartoon, but I'd heard it so many times in my life, it made everything about the Mets feel like home.

"I told you this wouldn't be a big thing," I said to Cole as we approached our gate. "I told you we'd work it out. Wanna go inside here? They're probably still taking BP. Or we can get some food."

I steered us toward one of those pretzel guys who'd parked his shopping cart by a rusted metal railing that separated the parking lot from the entryway that led to the stadium. The basket was filled with coals, just like I'd seen that time with Dad, only this guy wasn't black and he didn't use his fingers to turn the pretzels but these long metal tongs like Dad used at the grill.

"I thought you said the pretzel guys were black," Cole said.

I shushed him because that sounded racist or prejudiced or something, but I thought the same thing. This guy looked like he could've lived down the street and taken the same train to the game as we had. I wondered if maybe this guy was the boss, the guy who owned all the other pretzel carts and took a cut from whatever the other guys sold, or if any old guy with a cart and some coals could roll up to the stadium and sell for themselves. We stood near the cart for a bit, but the pretzel guy ignored us. "This is probably a real great job," I said to get his attention. "Do they let you into the games once they start?"

"Barrel of monkeys, kid," he said, kind of rude. "You want something?"

"Two please."

"Buck fifty. Mustard?"

"Yeah," I said. "But I can only pay fifty cents each. That's what my dad paid last time."

"Not from me he didn't. You want fifty-cent pretzels, go find the fifty-cent pretzel man."

He looked over the top of our heads and asked the old lady behind us how many she wanted. He'd moved on to the next sale, and I thought maybe I could convince Cole to wait for a hotdog instead, but before I could turn him away, he handed me an extra dollar. "Just pay him," he said. "It's just a stupid dollar anyway."

I got the pretzel guy's attention again and told him I still wanted the pretzels. "Your brother's a smart kid," he said, having seen Cole pitch in the extra cash. "Maybe you should let him run things before you both starve."

He said it like a real dick. I wanted to punch him in his guts, take the cart and toss it over onto his feet, burn his shoes and his toes with all those coals, steal as many pretzels as I could carry. What'd a stupid pretzel guy know anyway? So I smiled and handed him the money. He gave Cole both pretzels, and the change too, like Cole was the one in charge, and he didn't even respond when I thanked him.

We took our pretzels back to the gate and gave our tickets to the woman at the turnstile. She ripped them, kept her half and handed us what was left of the stubs.

"This is amazing," Cole said, talking about the pretzel, his mouth full. "Jeez the mustard is real good, like you said. Why don't we have this mustard at home? You think the pretzel tastes like this because of something in the cart, like the metal or something?"

"I don't know," I said. "Just keep moving." I guided him around a corner and into the corridors behind the stadium seats. "Watch your step."

We found the section number labeled on our tickets and walked through the tunnel to find our seats. No matter how many times I'd been to a game, the way the greens and browns of the field, the blue wall, the orange foul poles, all the colors that seemed so muted on television, all of them just exploded from the tunnel's shadow and nearly stopped me dead. The only thing like it is when Dorothy lands in Oz and opens the door to her house and the whole movie changes from black-and-white to full color. …

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