How to Take Your Grandparents to a Professional Sporting Event
I mentioned a little bit ago that I am currently working on my first book. It’s a memoir (titled Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should and Other Lessons I Learned the Hard Way), and since I’ve been writing in a narrative format lately, I decided to recount my experience at last night’s game similarly to how I’ve been working on my book. Who knows, maybe you’ll see this exact article when my book inevitably becomes a New York Times Bestseller. (But if you hate it and think it sucks, I’ll probably cry.) So, here goes: something that’s not typical of Rockin’ Redlegs.
How to Take Your Grandparents to a Professional Sporting Event
“Fuck, fuck, FUCK!” I screeched as I shot out of my front door and bounded into my SUV. In April, when my dad bought my grandma an 80-somethingth birthday present of three tickets to the May 21st Cincinnati Reds vs. Atlanta Braves game, no one had the foresight or psychic tendencies to know that the greater Cincinnati area would become a rainforest, minus the forest. I realized that the chances of the rain holding out until after the game were as good as Mike Leake getting his first win of the season that night. During the entire 20-minute drive to my grandparents’ house, I prayed to the baseball gods that I would not have to spend the next four hours of my life dealing with wet, therefore unhappy, octogenarians.
It’s not that I wasn’t totally psyched to take my grandparents to the baseball game. In the almost ten seasons that Great American Ballpark has existed, my grandparents have never attended a game. Obviously, I wanted to be the grandchild to take our grandma and grandpa to their first game at Great American, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous. My grandmother, like most people in their 80’s, has a hard time getting around, and I was hoping that Great American Ballpark would be most accommodating to her needs. After all, she is the woman who taught me everything I needed to know about being a female sports fan, and I fondly look back on the nights that I spent at her house, watching Barry Larkin, Jose Rijo, and Reggie Sanders with the TV on mute while we listened to Marty and Joe call the game on The Big One. Even then, Grandma knew that George Grande was a pox upon the Cincinnati Reds. Whenever the phone rings after a home run, a spectacular defensive play, or a comeback win, I needn’t even glance at the Caller ID. I already know who’s on the other line, ready to excitedly relive the moment. Naturally, I knew that the company I would keep at this particular game would be awesome, but I was concerned about the logistics of it all, and I was even more worried when Cincinnati became typhoon country.
When I arrived at my grandparents’ house, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I couldn’t believe it, and I silently thanked the baseball gods by saying the Our Skipper and one Hail Dusty. I headed inside to collect my senior citizens, and after storing our tickets safely in my purse and making sure Grandma wasn’t carrying any guns, bombs, or glass bottles in her Mary Poppins bag, we were on our way. I took up residence in the backseat of their ancient station wagon, and proceeded to brief them on prices of various ballpark items.
“How much is a hot dog?” asked Grandma.
“$4.50,” I replied.
“How much is a beer?” inquired Grandpa.
“Depending on what you get, anywhere from five to ten dollars.”
“Ten dollars for a beer?” they asked in unison.
“Yeah. When Mikey and I went to the game the other week, I spent 24 dollars on two beers and a lemonade,” I explained. “It’s too bad they won’t let you bring your own.”
I fielded more questions about prices of nachos and locations of the bathrooms, while silently praying to the Catholic saints that I would survive Grandpa’s maneuverability in downtown, rush-hour traffic. We made it, though, and Grandpa pulled right up to Crosley Terrace. Retrieving Grandma’s wheelchair from the hatch and getting her settled into it was a bit of an ordeal, but it went, for the most part, without incident. I wheeled Grandma up to the terrace, and we sat there patiently waiting for Grandpa to find a place to park and meet us before entering the ballpark.
After about 15 minutes, we began to worry that Grandpa got lost. I could also tell that Grandma was getting anxious due to the Twister-style clouds forming above our heads. Just when we were about to send out a search party, Grandpa came strolling up the terrace, and we rolled right through the gates and headed to our section. I pointed out all the cool stuff I felt that they should know about, and when we arrived to our section, we were all delighted to see that we were located directly behind the Reds Live set.
I was sent on an excursion to buy beer, hot dogs, and Cokes and returned with goodies for everyone. When I handed my grandma her hot dog and large Diet Coke, she asked if I had gotten a straw for her drink.
“No, they don’t give you straws,” I replied, “I guess they’re afraid you’re going to throw them on the field or something.” Grandma spotted a straw in a nearby, rogue cup of water and asked me to snatch it and give it to her for her drink.
“Grandma, no! That belongs to someone, and they’ve been using it! Besides, you might get AIDS or something.” Well, Grandma wasn’t happy with that answer, so she gave a big, fat YOLO and grabbed the straw anyway. That was bizarre, but I’m trying to decide what was weirder – the straw situation or my grandpa asking for a piece of my pretzel, and proceeding to brush the salt from the pretzel directly into his beer. I just laughed quietly to myself and prepared myself for the most awesome night ever.
The sky stayed clear as Grandma and Grandpa asked me questions upon questions about the ballpark.
“Are you allowed to smoke in here?”
“Where can you see who’s batting?”
“What are those tower things in centerfield?”
“Where is Marty sitting?”
“Who is that red, furry guy?”
I was tickled to share all of my Great American Ballpark wisdom with the people who had taught me so much in my life. I was not so tickled at their enthusiastic infatuation with Gapper’s pelvic thrusting.
As the baseball game progressed, I discovered that I had the best company ever. I couldn’t stop laughing at their in-game commentary. Grandpa discussed a pair of binoculars he once owned that doubled as a flask, stating that he could have snuck some rum and Coke into the ballpark without a problem. Grandma, who has questionable eyesight due to her advanced age, complained relentlessly about the home plate umpire’s calls, minutes after mistaking Jose Arredondo for Aroldis Chapman. We perched in our seats as we watched the Reds beat the stuffing out of the Braves, witnessing back-to-back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning. After Arredondo got two outs, then walked two in the ninth inning, Sean Marshall came out and finished the game. The fireworks resounded through the city, startling my elderly compatriots in the best way possible. The minute the Reds walked off the field after celebrating their win (and Mike Leake’s first win of the season), the heavens opened and the rain descended upon satisfied Reds fans.
As we hung out in our covered seats for a minute, hoping to wait out a little bit of rain before making our way to the car, the Reds Live postgame show happened behind us in full force. I caught a bit of the show on the TV near our seats, and spotted my grandpa moving around behind Jim Day. Yep, my grandparents didn’t know it, but they made it on TV that night. Here’s a shot from Mikey, who was watching at home:
The best part was when we were driving home, and they recounted the most exciting parts of the game. I could tell that they had a great time, as did I. After a magnificent night with my grandparents, I am thrilled to have had this experience with them. It’s weird and a little sad to think about, but their first outing at Great American Ballpark may have also been their last. I am so happy to have gotten to show them around my second home and watch a Reds win with two of the people I love most in the world. The moral of this story is that although your grandparents might not be so spry, go have fun with them. Don’t get too caught up in the minutia of such an outing. It is guaranteed to be a rewarding experience, and you’ll always look back on the time you spent together with a smile. Some people aren’t as lucky to get to hang out with their grandparents like I got to, so please go for it if you have the chance. It is absolutely amazing.