Monday, August 29, 2011

Hit Bull Win Steak. Hit Grass Win Salad.

I thought the sign that says "Hit Bull Win 
Steak / Hit Grass Win Salad" was an old 
ballpark tradition... Turns out it's a piece of 
scenery from the Bull Durham movie. 
If someone hits a home run,the bull's eyes
light up and smoke comes out of his nose. 
It's awesome.
Our family is far from perfect... What family is? We have our share of dysfunction, but one thing you can say is, we know how to have a good time. Sure, sometimes we have to force Bill to quit playing legos and have a good time with us, but once we’re there, it’s usually a gas.

Last night we went to a Durham Bulls baseball game, and, well, it rarely gets any better than that. We’re not a sporty family – my husband is a Mets fan and occasionally catches a game on TV, but that’s the sum total of the sports being watched at our house. But a live Bulls game — this is a different thing altogether.

If you’re not from around here, you may not be hip to this uniquely Durham experience. You can catch a whiff of it by watching the film Bull Durham, which has Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins as minor league baseball players for the Durham Bulls. It was filmed in Durham at the old Bulls stadium, and for a while had us all caught up in a Hollywood frenzy.
Tim Robbins and Kevin
Costner in
Bull Durham

The locals, including my husband and my sister’s ex-boyfriend, got to be extras, and it wasn’t unusual to see Susan Sarandon or Tim Robbins out at the Cat’s Cradle... But I’m not here to talk about the movie, just to give people from out of town a reference point. 

The Bulls now play out of a newer park — very nice, pretty clean. The first thing we do once we arrive is buy Bill a snow cone and sit down on one of the terraces while he and Tom eat it. The snow cones I am talking about are huge mounds of syrupy crushed ice, so it takes them a while. While they are busy turning their lips red or blue with the snow cone, Mom stands in line for a beer – usually a nice, frosty, local microbrew. In my experience, a beer at a baseball stadium on hot summer evening is the most delicious beer you can quaff.
Bill and his snow cone.

Then we find our seats and watch for a while while we decide what we’re going to eat next. And it’s not just watching dudes in knickers playing a sport... it’s innings of baseball interspersed with crazy things like a dog running the bases or a couple of people in those huge sumo wrestler suits bouncing off each other. Which is funny every time. Especially if you are drinking a beer. They play songs – sometimes it’s John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” ... an awesome tune. And then if someone hits a home run or does something spectacular, they play that song by Gary Glitter, “Rock’n Roll Part 2,” which, I don’t care if it’s uncool to say so, is a really great song, and perfect for the occasion. 
Wool E. Bull

They have the traditional organ interludes... Take Me Out to the Ball Game, the “CHARGE” tune, the Addams Family jingle... And the people around you – a diverse crowd spanning a huge demographic range – they really get into it, shouting “CHARGE!” and singing along with the songs... laughing at those cute little graphics on the “Big Blue Monster,” which is really nothing but a big blue expanse of wall on which they have the video screen, the scoreboard and a bunch of billboard ads for sponsors. Sometimes they have people dressed up in mascot suits – Wool E. Bull is always there, and we've also seen Spongebob, Dora the Explorer and Yogi Bear.

And then there’s the food. We are at the stadium at roughly dinnertime, but all standard “dinner” rules go out the window. For instance, for my “dinner” I had the previously mentioned beer, some delicious, greasy fries and some extra-salty popcorn... and the rest of Bill’s grilled cheese sandwich. The Bulls park has great food... lots of yummy eats, including local barbecue. Not your standard dye-the-bun-red wienies at our park! And, like beer, food tastes better at a ballpark – just like Humphrey Bogart said: “A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz.”

Of course, we had the good fortune to be under an awning, shielded from the blazing North Carolina sun. The heat and humidity sometimes detract from the total experience... but that’s what the ice cold beverages are for... 

Dudes in knickers playing a sport.
Well, now that I have written this, I am thinking I may have to backtrack because, really, I’ve never been to a baseball game anywhere else. It might not be just a Durham Bulls thing. For all I know, these things might be happening just this way all over the country... 

And I don’t have any spiritual nuggets to dispense about baseball or anything, although I’m sure there’s something in there... like, If you build it, he will come.” I just wanted to describe it a little bit and thank God for creating the man who invented baseball, and all the other folks who have turned it into a delicious spectacle.

(All photos except the Bull Durham one were taken by my husband, who is a pretty good photographer!)

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