We drive to Atlanta through a blinding thunderstorm. Miraculously, the clouds part as we cross the Fulton County line. When we arrive at the ballpark, the weather is room-temperature, breezy, and clear, and it stays that way for the rest of the evening. Absolutely idyllic.
Turner Field is the most beautiful ballpark I've ever seen. Brick plazas, ample comforts, gorgeous sightlines. There is a romantic mist hovering around the upper edges of the grandstand.
We find our eBay-purchased seats and troop dutifully toward them, laden with $6.50 hotdogs and $7 Bud Lites. Soon we realize we are in the Amusing Drunken Fratboy section. Behind us we hear voices.
"Naw, man, there ain't two colors of grass out there. They just MOW it differ'nt."
"Shee-it, listen to 'im."
"Two colors of grass!"
"Hey, man, I think we might as well've stayed at the bar and watched the game on TV."
"Naw, man, you can SAY your lawn looks that good. But you know it don't."
The s.o. is on the cell phone with his dad. "Hey, Dad! Yeah, we're at Turner Field, spending some of that birthday money you sent me! OK, you should turn on your TV, because it's the ESPN Sunday night game. Look for us. We're six rows from the front in right center field."
"Naw, man, see the difference is that they mow this shit alla time, where you only mow it when you think of it. WHOOOOOO GO BRAVES!"
"Sorry, Dad, it's kind of loud here. Talk to you later..."
A benighted Giants right-fielder misses an easy catch, and the fratboys lay into him. "MOHR! YOU SUCK!"
Barry Bonds is at bat. There is much consternation in the Amusing Drunken Fratboy section.
"HEY MAN, WALK 'IM! WALK THE BASTARD! WALK 'IM!"
A pitch. A swing and a monstrous crack, and Bonds slams a home run into the section directly to the right of us. It's easily a 450-footer.
"SONOFABITCH! WHY THE HELL'D YOU PITCH TO 'IM?"
The razzing continues. "MOHR! YOU SUCK! MOHR, YOU SUCK!"
"Hey, Mohr, does your husband play the same position?"
"Hit it into right field! There's a hole out there!"
Mohr is beginning to look irritated. I'm waiting for him to vault over the backstop and pummel the guys. That'd be worth the price of a ticket right there.
Barry Bonds again.
"C'mon...WALK THE BASTARD! WALK 'IM! WALK 'IM!"
A pitch. A swing and another crack, and Bonds sends the ball into the same section as before. It's virtually identical to the last homer he hit. No hope of us catching a ball, I guess.
I sneak off for a plate of nachos and more beer. The Mexican-food purveyor bobbles the plate as he hands it toward me, and a giant glob of sour cream slides down my leg. I'm left scrubbing at my jeans with a soaked-down bar towel. Grr.
After returning from the 7th inning
"WALK 'IM! WALK 'IM! No, wait, every time I say to walk him, he hits a goddamn home run. PITCH TO 'IM! PITCH TO 'IM!"
Bonds strikes out.
One of the pleasant black men sitting next to us has crept to a neighboring section, armed with a catcher's mitt. He lucks out and catches a ball tossed into the crowd by the Giants' center-fielder. Immediately, a skinny white girl in a hot-pink tank top starts begging him for the ball. Then she gets desperate and offers to flash him if he'll give it to her. "Shake on it! C'mon!" she badgers.
Shrugging, he reaches across the rows and shakes her hand. I elbow the s.o. hard and he looks over just in time to see her lift her tank top over her head and expose her breasts.
Then the black man pockets the baseball, shaking his head and smiling. Several redneck types spring to their feet at this breach of contract, and one of them calls the guy a "punk." A knot of combatants forms. Reluctantly, one of the other black men rises to his feet and cracks his knuckles once or twice. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot several security people hustling toward us. They escort the girl out of the ballpark and break up the fight just as the shoving begins.
"Shee-it," says a fratboy. "A fight and titties. I sure got my money's worth tonight."
The Braves lose. We sit in the stands until everyone has left, since there's no point rushing out only to sit in traffic for a half hour. Eventually the usher shoos us out.
"You see that girl?"
"We sure did," the s.o. smiles.
The usher shakes his head, raising his eyes heavenward. "For a three-dollar baseball," he says.