When I was a young kid, my parents got my brothers and I up early one Saturday morning to make the three-hour drive to Pittsburgh to see my favorite baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. I could barely hold in my excitement. The game would be my first Major League Baseball game.
The drive went past miles and miles of rural farmland and rolling hills, a smidge of suburbia, before entering the Fort Pitt Tunnel and coming out with the city laid out before you like a good friend greeting you with an outstretched hug. From there, we soon made it to our destination, Three Rivers Stadium. The exterior of the circular stadium was about as pleasing as a concrete bunker, perfect for football and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steal Curtain defense, but not as pleasing for baseball — my apologies to all my Pittsburgh friends — but, for me, we were entering the Promised Land. I was going to be able to see all of my favorite baseball players: scrappy second basemen Rennie Stennet; sure-handed catcher Manny Sanguillen; and even Willie Stargell, the long-time first basemen, who I idolized for this calm demeanor and tried to mimic when I stood at the plate to hit.
Once we got past the turnstiles and into the stadium, we seemed to walk forever around the concourse to our seats. My little legs couldn’t keep up with the rest of the family. I was out of breath just trying to keep pace. Fortunately, we soon came to the entranceway to our section and the inner bowl of the stadium. I stood in the entrance in a wide-eyed trance. My father had to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention. I had never seen a field so big and artificial turf so green and vibrant looking. My eyes hurt just looking out at the field.
My memory plays tricks on me, I can’t be certain of who the Pirates played that day. I think it might have been the Philadelphia Phillies, they were the hated rivals, or possibly the St. Louis Cardinals, your guess would be as good as mine, but I’m pretty sure the Pirates lost that day. I kept the ticket stub and program, with the score spelled out in my large, unsteady handwriting for years, until they got errantly thrown out into the trash in one of my many moves after college. (You could probably say that my youthful dreams and creativity went with those tickets when they got pitched into the trash, but that’s a story for another day.)
The details of the actual game are lost on me now, lost to the passage of time and the decades that have come since, but I remember being happy beyond belief to see the game in person. The players looked like tiny ants from our seats high up in the stands, but I felt like a king.
Still the same
Fast-forward to today. My brother and I took my youngest son this past February to his first National Basketball Association game to see the Philadelphia 76ers and then in September I took him to see his first National Football League game to watch the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Indianapolis Colts. When we went to the football game in September, Mother Nature decided to playfully stick her tongue out at us. She brought a pouring rain that seemed to get caught up on weather system and stuck around the stadium for much of the day. We were soaked to the bone throughout much of the day, but my son didn’t seem to mind.
As we walked around outside Lincoln Financial Field, watching the vendors and crazy fans, his eyes were bulging. He was taking in the circus-like spectacle and absorbing the many different sites and sounds. He popped his head to the right to watch a small crowd of avid fans gather round a large-screen TV and shout out one E – A – G – L – E – S chant after the other when the announcer showed video of Eagles players warming up on the field. We walked a little more and he’d look in the other direction to watch two people trying to navigate up the steep stadium steps carrying cup holders full of beer and soda.
My son has been to other big events. He’s gone to several college football games. He’s been to the city and experienced the hustle and bustle many more times than I ever did at his age. but this was his first professional football game. While new, he seemed to take everything in stride.
Television has come a long way in bringing events to our home — the view frankly is just better on TV — but there’s nothing like seeing concerts, sports games, parades, and events live and in-person. You feel the stadium explode with emotion, you feed off the person seated or, in most cases, standing next to you. It’s just a different experience.
I’ve been lucky to see a few events in person in my lifetime. I’ve been thinking about a few more that I’d love to see or be a part of one day:
- The obvious. Game Seven of the World Series or the Super Bowl.
- Concerts. I would love to go back in time to see some of the biggest bands known to man in their heyday and to have seen their shows, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, ACDC, The Who, and many others. My hearing is so bad now that most concerts are lost on me, but I still wish I had said yes years ago when a high school friend asked offhanded one day if I wanted to try to get tickets to go see Live Aid at the old JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.
- Broadway. I always say that I’m not a big musical fan, that I’m just not into the hoopla, but then my wife will convince me to go, we’ll get seated, the lights will dim, the orchestra will start to play and just like that I’m spellbound, glued tight to my seat, by whatever make-believe world we’ve entered. Plus, nothing beats a trip with my wife or one of my kids to New York for dinner out and a show. Hamilton anyone?
- And then there’s the Why-Not list. Heck, I would love to attend South by Southwest, the annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences, or Comic-Con, the comic book convention, one year just to see what the fuss is all about and to see if for myself.
Since the Colts game in September, the Eagles have put up a couple of clunkers, okay more than a few, but have hung in there in other games. My son’s reaction: he keeps asking when we’re going back.
What events have I missed? What event would you like to see live?