At the Cleveland Indians Wild Card game last Wednesday night, one Tribe fan was kicked out for standing up during the game.
I’m sure that’s the story that one fan has been telling to anyone who was willing to listen since he was removed from Progressive File late into the Wild Card loss. He’ll also likely be trying to force people to watch the cell phone video footage he took of the police officer who told him to sit down in the first place.
“Can you believe that?” he’ll say. “A cop telling me to sit down at a playoff baseball game!?!? It’s the playoffs!” He’ll feel bolstered by his buddies who will tell him he’s right. They’ll tell him that as a paying customer, if he wants to stand up, he’s within his rights! And for a police officer sitting on the field to intervene in his standing to watch? Well, that’s just garbage.
He would be right, too… if that’s how it went down. I was there sitting close by, so I can tell you what really happened. I’ve thought a lot about this, so I figured I would tell my version of the story.
Let’s give this antagonistic protagonist a name. I don’t know his name, but I think for the purposes of the story he needs one. So, I’ll use the worst of my judgmental personality to let this book be not only judged by its cover, but given a title too. If it was an earlier decade, his name would probably be Jerry. Jerry is a name for a guy who can be a bit smooth, but also a bit greasy. Think about what it felt like the first time you saw Jerry Maguire after Tom Cruise jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch. Alas, in this day and age, Jerry feels a bit antiquated as a name, so it’s not quite right.
This was definitely a Steve, but you know for sure he goes by Stevie because it sounds better coming out of the overly loud mouths of his buddies who “just like to have a good time” and think everything’s “classic!” There’s nothing wrong with the name Steven or Stephen, of course. It’s a perfectly fine name. Even Steve or Stevie are potentially O.K. but when you imagine someone saying Stev-ie with a huge baritone accent on the second half of the name, it plays more into a stereotype that I think fits our guy. Now that I’ve unleashed a stereotype carpet-bombing, let me finish the job.
You can tell that Stevie considers himself fashionable, wearing expensive jeans, and fancy looking leather shoes. These are the kinds of shoes that look enough like boots with their pointed toes that they could double as formal wear in a country bar. But he’s not dressed “country” as much as he looks like a slightly out-of-shape male lead in a Rascal Flatts video. Dressing nicely is admirable, but some people look like they’re just trying too hard.
He wears cologne for sure, but it’s not just a scent for him. He’s created a storyline for his scent so when he gets a chance to talk to “the ladies” about it, he can use it like a conversational prop. Nobody really has pickup lines per se, but let’s just assume that the women who’ve shared company with Stevie might have a few laughs comparing similar notes. Stevie seems a bit on the unique side when you first meet him as long as you don’t mind that he’s just a collection of other people’s favorite things rather than anything approximating a real unique individual.
Stevie is definitely in his late 30′s, but whenever he tells people how old he is he expects them to say they don’t think he’s anywhere near that old. “Age is just a number,” is not only a motto for going out on a young people’s party night like Thursday, but a way to ward off the slowly approaching fear that Stevie’s becoming the creepy old guy in the bar. He doesn’t have any grey hair just yet, but that mysterious crop circle is starting to form in the exact spot he’d wear a yarmulke if he were Jewish or at a Jewish wedding. No big deal though. As he’s told his bros, “I only hit on girls shorter than me and by the time they see my ‘spot,’ I’m done with them anyway.”
Stevie’s so pumped up for the Tribe. He takes the afternoon off with some other buddies who are younger than he is. As he’s moved through life, his real peers have slowly disappeared into lives that didn’t include him. He attended their weddings, but has scarcely seen most of them since wearing out the numerous open bars that accompanied their respective wedding vows.
He’s got some new friends, but they’re really just the latest crop of younger people he works with -temporary friends who haven’t hit a level of maturity beyond Stevie’s just yet. Most will, of course, but not realizing Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused was a cautionary one, Stevie thinks, “I get older, they stay the same age.” He used to call his friends his “dudes.” Now they call each other “bros.”
Stevie gets downtown to find a bar in which to pre-game. It’s going to be a long night of playoff baseball, so Stevie avoids beer and other boring types of mixed drinks as he and the boys incorporate Red Bull into their consumption. This is the fuel for cheering and high fives with many, many strangers on the way into the park.
Stevie and one of his buddies get to their seats in time for the ceremonial first pitch, and they are amped. They have their white towels for waving, but even that’s not good enough. They want to continually bounce as if they’re a couple of vibrating college kids in Cameron Indoor Stadium for a Duke basketball game. They’re into it too, cracking each other up in their excitement. There are a host of funny faces featuring protruded tongues and guttural grunting to go along with the disturbing visuals. They’ve got a couple of Bud Light tall boys already, but they will soon be gone and replaced by many more.
Now, the game itself is about to begin. Progressive Field is absolutely on fire and nobody seems to know what to do when Danny Salazar finally throws the first pitch. Are we going to stand for a bit? Are we going to sit? It’s very confusing, but the consensus in the crowd seems to be that we’re all going to stand for a bit.
Pitch one is out of Danny Salazar’s hand to David DeJesus – strike one looking! The crowd goes berserk with the movement of the umpire’s strike call. Stevie and his buddy are hopping and twirling towels and looking at each other wide-eyed. Pitch two is scary for the sold-out crowd in Progressive Field. As the ball flies to center field on a rope, the crowd goes silent. Michael Bourn has taken a step or two in and now he’s racing backwards a little too quickly to give anyone comfort that he’s going to catch the ball. He finds himself underneath it, squeezes it and the crowd cheers with relief.
Again the crowd tries to figure out what to do. It seems the consensus is to sit, but obviously not everyone is in agreement. Most of the people around Stevie sit, but Stevie’s a first row patron, so he’s controlling the actions of everyone behind him. He remains standing and shifting and bouncing as all the fans around him do the same.
Danny Salazar is dealing. Pitch one to the second batter, Wil Myers, is a ball. Pitch two, ball two. Pitch three, strike one looking. Pitch four, strike two looking.
With two strikes, there’s no question what the crowd is going to do. They all burst to their feet again with a deafening roar. Salazar gets the sign, rears back and fires. Danny Salazar strikes Wil Myers out swinging and it’s near pandemonium in the stands. Between batters the majority of fans sit, but Stevie and his buddy aren’t having any of it. As of right now, there’s no issue with those standing behind Stevie, but elsewhere things are getting tense in the stands.
There’s a police officer sitting on a stool on the field. He’s one of two extra officers down the baselines from what are staffed during a regular season game. He’s trying hard to listen to his walkie talkie and also watch the game so he doesn’t get plastered by a foul ball. In front of him, Stevie and his buddy are standing, but that’s not what is grabbing his attention.
Behind this officer there are a couple of Rays fans who are standing as well. They are now the subject of extreme scrutiny amongst some unruly Tribe fans. The two Rays fans are defiant and proud as they look around at various Indians fans saying nasty things to them. They’re swearing and gesturing right back at two different sets of Tribe fans who are instigating an altercation. The Rays fans are fighting on multiple fronts when one Tribe fan leaves his seat and walks down to the Rays fans to scream in their faces.
This confrontational, out-of-line jerk of a Tribe fan, is an utter embarrassment. He’s likely in his late 40′s. He’s wearing a tented out golf shirt to cover his fat tree trunk of a body, khaki shorts and has his sunglasses draped off the back of his head like he was a much less hip disciple of Guy Fieri. This guy is as cool as a Catch Phrase, and he’s about five feet from the Rays fans in an aisle close to them.
The police officer stands up and joins one of his fellow officers in calming the situation by pointing at everyone and making them sit down back in their seats. Yes, these officers were telling fans to sit down, but it was really just stopping a fight before it happened. For this one moment, order has been restored.
Back to the game.
The third batter for the Rays is James Loney. He steps to the plate and most of the crowd sits. Stevie and his buddy don’t and they’re very unhappy that everyone else is doing so. Stevie starts turning around and looking at his neighbors with his hands in the air. He’s raising his hands up and down to try and make everyone stand up. He’s getting frustrated and his fists are clenched as he screams something in the air. He’s getting more livid and confrontational with every moment as he’s continuing to look around to call out the fans around him. He desperately thinks he knows the proper way to cheer on Danny Salazar and the Tribe, if only everyone would follow the drunk, loud guy. That’s when it happens.
The police officer sensing another situation gets a bit proactive and points at Stevie and tells him to sit down.
Stevie is, shall we say, displeased. He looks at the officer and starts into an angry diatribe about how he can stand if he wants to and “You can’t tell me to sit down.” His head is animated as he’s doing his best impression of a woman who wouldn’t be out of place on stage of the Jerry Springer show. He’s waving his hands at the police officer dismissively as if to say, “No way. Get out of here.”
The officer has now had it. He just broke up one situation behind him and he’s presumably not in the mood to be dismissed and talked back to by Stevie. He re-iterates to Stevie to sit down. Stevie starts to argue again from 10 feet away and the officer scolds him pointing at him in a way as which to say, “No more.” I don’t think Stevie can hear him, but I hear the officer say, “I’m the last fu**ing person you’re going to get mouthy with.”
By the way, there’s still a playoff baseball game happening on the field.
There are now two strikes on James Loney and the crowd rises to its feet again. All except Stevie. Stevie is now pouting and is refusing to stand up even when everyone else is doing so. He has his cell phone out and is obviously taking video – portrait, not landscape of course – of the police officer. Danny Salazar strikes out James Loney, the crowd goes nuts and the Indians jog off the field. Stevie’s dead-panned face is a bit sulky as he continues to film the police officer and give him defiant blank looks.
The police officer goes over to Stevie between innings to try and straighten things out. The officer has a smile on his face and seems to want to figure out how to make peace now that they can have a chance to talk to each other as opposed to being ten to fifteen feet away engaging in sign language and yelling. The officer’s body language is somewhat conciliatory, Stevie won’t give an inch. He started listening calmly, but now he’s arguing with the officer, and stating that he’ll just sit down for the rest of the game. The officer assures him that’s not what he wants him to do, but Stevie thinks he’s going to make the officer feel badly for him. Stevie’s been disrespected and instead will prefer to be the embodiment of cutting off his nose to spite his face, punishing only himself by not enjoying the Tribe’s playoff game.
He seems to think he’s making an important point. To whom he’s making this point, I am still unsure. To everyone around him, including a couple fans that try to console him and tell him to enjoy the game, he’s really acting like a child who has never been told “no” before.
For the rest of the game, Stevie sits and pouts while watching the game and modestly cheering on the Tribe. When there are two strikes, he keeps his butt plastered to his seat in defiant sadness. All the while, he’s downing beer. Stevie had roughly four tallboys (of the seven or eight at his and his buddy’s feet) before the Indians got up to bat in the eighth inning where the story picks up again in earnest.
Joel Peralta is now on to pitch for the Rays and it’s getting pretty bleak for Tribe fans. Jason Kipnis pops out to short. Carlos Santana singles to left field and Stevie, finally, seems sick of his own boycott and decides to stand up with the rest of the crowd that’s resigned to get excited about base-runners by this point in the game. Even with all the initial insult of being told to sit, surely Stevie wants to see this team come back and save their playoff hopes by scoring some runs, right?
Michael Brantley comes up to the plate. He fouls off the first pitch. Takes a second pitch ball, then fouls out weakly to left. Stevie starts to cheer mockingly for the Rays as he’s had it with the Tribe. His neighbors in the stands have now had it with him. Some gray-haired Tribe fans near Stevie take exception and say something to him. Stevie keeps clapping and also is now turning around to clap in the faces of those who dared say anything to him. The confrontation is short-lived as everyone turns back to the action on the field.
The whole crowd stands as Nick Swisher comes to the plate with two down and one man on in desperate hopefulness that Swisher might do something—anything. Swisher creates a bat-induced hurricane at the pitcher’s mound with wild strike one and strike two swings. The crowd remains on their feet as Swisher whiffs wildly at strike three. The crowd groans and sits as Stevie remains standing and clapping and verbally sparring with those around him.
The police officer sees the situation developing and resignedly starts to speak into his walkie talkie. There are two older guys pissed off at Stevie now and they’re all screaming and yelling at each other. This situation is escalating quickly and Stevie doesn’t appear to be capable of stopping himself from fighting. The officer speaks into his walkie talkie again and an imposing officer in plain clothes comes down to take Stevie away. Stevie wants to know why he’s being removed. “All I was doing was STANDING!” he says to the officer. His chin is out and he’s got an “I didn’t do anything!” look on his face. The officer tells him in no uncertain terms that he’s not telling him anything until they get to the top of the section and out of the stands. Stevie realizes he’s not going to be able to negotiate his way out of a walk up the section stairs to the concourse, so he resigns himself to leaving.
Stevie’s friend is now taking cell phone video – again portrait, not landscape – of the plain clothes officer who pushes the phone down. Stevie’s friend gets wide-eyed and looks at the plain clothes officer and says, “I’m allowed to video tape you. You know I’m allowed!” He points at the officer, “You know you’re wrong!” The plain clothes officer doesn’t really seem to care indicating that as long as Stevie’s friend remains in between him and Stevie that he can use whatever means necessary to get Stevie, including pushing an uncooperative camera operator. The plain-clothes officer takes Stevie away to end an hours-long affair of baseball, beer and volatility in the stands.
And so ends the story that Stevie is likely telling about how he was removed from the Indians playoff game “for standing.”
Stevie will most assuredly forget the parts where he was nearly inciting a brawl with fans around him. He’ll forget to mention about how he was verbally sparring with a police officer in the first inning. He’ll never know that many of the fans around him went from being on his side to hating his guts as he continued to consume more and more beer. But it’s more than the things that he’ll forget. It’ll be the things he wasn’t around to see.
Stevie missed the four or five fans that went up to the police officer to thank him after the game for keeping the potential volatility bottled up.
It’s not that he wanted to cheer more than everyone or that he was cheering wrong, but being part of a crowd is being a good citizen. Stevie thought he was a leader and nobody co-signed on his ideas. Even before the police officer told him to sit down, he was already losing because he had no self-awareness. For a guy like him, everything’s all about him all the time. If I were him, I might blame the whole situation on my self-centered attitude and forget about the whole “standing” thing altogether.
Not Stevie. He’ll continue to glide through life telling everyone about the time he was persecuted at a Tribe playoff game for standing up.