Who can identify the last time or place anyone took a gold eagle or sovereign from his purse and slapped it on the table to pay for dinner? Who can identify the last company of archers sent into battle by a captain who still believed a well-drawn flight of arrows could overmatch a volley of bullets? Who can identify the last time a two-dollar bill was folded into a matchbox and passed to buy a vote?
—Theodore White, America in Search of Itself: The Making of the Presidents 1956-1980
Pass me that bottle and mind your own business.
—Harry Truman, as imagined by the Rainmakers, “Downstream”
You know what you don’t really see much anymore? Guy sneaking a flask into a ballgame. I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen it. Maybe it happens all the time, but I’m thinking that’s a football thing. Or an alcoholic thing. Might have seemed like an excellent plan as recently as Wednesday night when the Mets were dropping their twelfth decision in fourteen appointments and everybody who wasn’t tethered to cough syrup (like myself) needed to be seeking relief in something stronger than free samples of Pepsi Max.
But we were so much older then. We’re younger than that now. We’re where we were in the heady period that spanned April 2 to April 5, those halcyon days of the first three-game winning streak of 2011. I can say first because — wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles — we have another, and it’s going on RIGHT NOW! It’s true. I’ve done the math, and by winning Thursday, Friday and Saturday without losing on any days that were added to the calendar when they were reworking the zodiac, it adds up to three consecutive wins.
That’s eight off the team record and four from being what a more confident fan base might consider a noteworthy winning streak, but let us not killjoy this thing with logic. We’ve won three in a row. I’m not well-versed as regards illicit alcohol, but I would think that’s a reason to hoist your pints out in the open, not drown your sorrows via snuck-in containers.
A flask? Who sneaks in a flask?
The guy in front of me out in right field was who. Maybe there was a touch of irony intended. Dude was pretty young — legal certainly, but not of the flask demographic, which I would tab as someone pulling a fast one in 1954. He was part of a birthday group of about fifteen guys and gals who weren’t much trouble yet I would have consigned to a different section altogether had I had my druthers (which I rarely do in a public situation). Two guys took turns giving each other the finger all day, and not out of empathy for Bobby Parnell. It was that kind of birthday party. Not a 1-800-FLOWERS cake in sight.
Vodka was in the flask, I learned. I can see how it might have slipped by the battery of anti-flask barriers set up by management. This group brought their own food, and lots of it, and somewhere amid the capicola and deviled eggs, a flask could just get “lost”. Lotsa food, these people had. I always admire the people who err on the side of too much when they make their pregame deli trips. This guy, for example, was bearing several heroic sandwiches. One of the finger-givers worked on a big bag of Lay’s while one of his non-finger companions unfurled a budget-size sack of Rold Gold. That’s a movable ballpark feast. Best I could do was a turkey wrap from the King Kullen that I had the presence of mind to pick up Friday and save for Saturday, consuming it while waiting out the rain delay in a dark corner of the Promenade Club — or the Braniff Airlines departure lounge, as the regulars at LaGuardia know it by sight.
Not that Citi Field lacks for the culinary, but the economy inherent in the big bag of sandwiches, snacks and sealed containers is unbeatable. Perhaps that’s where the flask of vodka came in. How much is a beer at the ballpark? Haven’t partaken of my occasional Blue Point Toasted Lager as of yet this season, but the price of anything can get hefty by the cup. Flask of vodka? I didn’t have to fail microeconomics more than once to infer that’s a relative bargain.
The flask was passed around a bit, so its impact on the flask guy was diluted. Plus he alternated sips with a bottle of cranberry juice cocktail and a bottle of water. He may be a problem drinker in some facet of his life — I mean he brought a flask of vodka to a baseball game — but he wasn’t a problem today. A little annoying when he shouted “FIRE ’EM ALL!” after Frankie Rodriguez surrendered a single to Juan Miranda (who had the right to remain hitless), but not major Drunk in the Next Row type of hassle. Many were worse at Shea. Shea was Kelcy’s Bar compared to Citi Field. Must have been less expensive to get soused there, or perhaps all those Designated Driver golf shirt signup sheets really have proved a boon to safety and civility.
Now why, beyond your own demons for which you should seek counseling, would somebody feel it necessary to sneak a flask of vodka into a Saturday afternoon ballgame? I’m not using economy as a motive; that’s just a benefit. Two reasons as best as I can figure would go into taking this action:
1) Terrible weather.
2) Terrible baseball.
Granted, the day did not lurch to a promising start with all that rain, but it turned quite pleasant. My winter coat was the right outerwear before first pitch, excessive by the ninth inning. If the flask was brought along as protection against the elements, then it outlived its usefulness. On the other hand, you’ve brought the flask, what’s the point of not opening and draining it regardless of climate? Remember having your lunch packed in the fridge the night before, then waking up too sick to go to school? Didn’t you love eating your school lunch out of its brown bag at home?
The baseball, like the weather, improved as the day went along, too. The reasons not to drink…
• Dillon Gee’s six crackling innings of adequacy
• back-to-back bombs from Bay and Ike so powerful that Harry Truman would have thought long and hard before ordering them deployed;
• Josh Thole’s sincerely doofy grin when Tillman the Skateboarding Bulldog delivered the ceremonial first pitch to kick off Bark in the Park Day;
• Pedro “What Idiots Rule 5’d Him?” Beato and Jason Isringhausen rendering at least temporarily obsolete the dependence on high-leverage no-shows like Byrdak, Buchholz and Carrasco;
• and the all-important but oft-missing tack-on run, as delivered by Daniel “Bonehead” Murphy in the eighth
…surely outweighed the reasons why a Mets fan would want to drown multiple sorrows in smuggled vodka…
• Murphy earning the Bonehead sobriquet with characteristic defense that makes me hope very much that any bonehead can play second place;
• Miguel Montero’s demonstrated ability to wipe out half the planet’s population three times over with just one swing;
• the fact that Mets fans with dogs are welcome to parade around the Citi Field warning track but no similar invitation has been issued to Mets fans with banners;
• and a sense that too many Mets were left on base for eight innings and that K-Rod was putting too many Diamondbacks on base in the ninth inning and that ohmigod, let me get a hit off that flask.
But we won. We won our third in a row. We won our third game of the year when I was either in a bar near Citi Field, in a bar at Citi Field or fascinated by the actions of those I just as soon would have preferred spent their afternoon in a bar far away from Citi Field.
I guess I can drink to that.