Random Thoughts While Watching the Corn Grow

By Glenn Tanner - June 20, 2006

Today's games don't start till 4 pm, so instead of doing the usual and hanging out in the Rosenblatt parking lot, I'm sitting in my host's house while he works a half day. Bored. So bored that I almost watched some World Cup. Almost. So here are some random comments on the week...

I haven't actually mapped it out, but I believe that Rice is the closest of the eight schools to Omaha. And I don't know if it's the underdog charm of being a small exclusive private school, or if people just enjoy watching Wayne Graham totter around, but they're also the team that most of the locals seem to have decided to root for. The lack of a flatland school has made this Series a ticket scalper's nightmare. None of the schools brought sizable crowds like Texas and LSU do. Not even close. Tickets have been extremely plentiful outside the gates for almost every game. A guy sitting behind us did pay $90 for a pair of $18 tickets, but he was just stupid. I'm pretty confident that anyone could have bought tickets to any game so far for no more than face value.

The atmosphere inside the stadium is way different than what you see at a Regional. I'm in a section that's usually 95% locals, so no one (except me) hangs on every pitch, and about half of them seem more interested in being at the game than actually watching the game. Lots of people show up late, leave early, and spend much of the game buying overpriced concessions. Eric mentioned that a hockey rule was needed for the seating area, and he's absolutely right -- it's ridiculous how many times you have to stand up in the middle of an inning because someone in the middle of your row decides that a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and one out is the perfect time to go buy a freakin' blooming onion.

I can't imagine what it's like in the bleachers, because everyone in the outfield seems more interested in playing with beach balls than watching the game. The left and right field bleachers have developed a rivalry that provides some laughs, though. Left field will yell "RIGHT FIELD SUCKS!" Right field will respond "LEFT FIELD SUCKS!" and they'll go back and forth for a while. For evening games, the right side of the stadium stares into the sun, so last night the right field bleachers started chanting "WE'VE GOT SHADE!" Left field countered with "WE'VE GOT TANS!" Right field got the last word by starting a "YOU'LL GET CAN-CER" clap, clap, clapclapclap chant.

The sun has been a killer for the afternoon games, although I am starting to resemble George Hamilton. Making the problem worse is the stadium's policy of not allowing you to bring any water inside. Because that would seriously hurt sales of the $3.50 bottles of Dasani, you see. Or be a security threat. I mean, with Al-Qaida running around, you can't be letting people bring cold liquids or frozen bottles into a baseball stadium during the heat of summer. They do allow you to bring in an empty bottle and fill it at the stadium "Hydration Station," which generously provides free faucets. Yep, nothing quenches your thirst on a 95-degree day like 95-degree water out of a faucet. A few years ago, you could buy a soft drink at the concessions and get a free refill of ice later. I tried that last year and they asked for another $5. Let's see, I just paid $5 for a Diet Coke, ice, and a cup, and now I'm bringing the cup back and asking for only ice, and that'll be another $5. That makes a lot of sense.

In direct contrast is the Ninth Inning Ministry outside the stadium. It's a ministry put on by an Omaha church each year -- they have volunteers hand out free bottles of cold water with Bible verses on the labels every year during the CWS. They'll hand you a free bottle of water every time you walk by their spot and tell you nothing more than "Enjoy the games!" They're an absolute oasis in the swarm of capitalism-gone-wild that is 13th Street, and I've drunk hundreds of bottles of their free "Holy Water" over the years, so they deserve a plug: thirstnomore.com.

The real spirit of the Series can be found in the parking lot. Tailgating is huge, especially on the weekends. Everyone here does it up big, and Saturday was as festive as I've ever seen it. There were times on Saturday that you couldn't even walk down some of the rows, let alone drive a car down them. Everybody cooks (and is willing to share), and lots of people play washers or rodeo golf. (Kim was absolutely beating the snot out of me at rodeo golf, but I got revenge by somehow breaking one of the crossbars with one of my tosses. Maybe that lack of touch is why she was beating the snot out of me...) Plenty of people never even make it inside the stadium even though they have tickets.

My favorite parking lot tradition is the hooding of the flamingos. There's a group that tailgates every year at the southeast corner of the lot. You have to vacate the lot every night, but one of them camps across the street and gets the same spot every day. They bring eight plastic yard flamingos and decorate each up with the proper colored Mardi Gras beads to represent each team. When a team is eliminated, they'll have a hooding ceremony, offering up a solemn toast for the team and then covering its flamingo's head with a black bag. When we drive by today, we'll see six happy flamingos and two with covered heads.

On a similar note... Just past the centerfield wall are eight flagpoles flying flags bearing each team's name and colors. Every year I have joked that when a team is eliminated, their flag should be lowered to half mast. This year, they're actually doing it!

Omaha's night life is great after the game. Downtown was renovated and revitalized into an entertainment district several years ago, and there are many places down there to catch the end of the NBA or NHL playoffs after the game. (Side notes: Nothing is cooler than seeing the Stanley Cup presented. I don't care if you don't like hockey or even sports, it's cool. I got big-time chills last night seeing the look on Rod Brind'Amour's face when he lifted the Cup. In fact, I'm getting chills again just thinking about it. And in the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks are in the midst of the biggest screwjob in sports history. The NBA playoffs had been absolutely spectacular until last week when the officiating got squirrelly for some reason.) Outside of downtown, you can find a nightspot on seemingly every corner. My favorite is Barrett's on Leavenworth. Thursday and Friday nights are pork tenderloin sandwich nights. Droooool...

In fact, I'm getting hungry right now. And since it's lunch time in Omaha, I'm going to bust into my hosts' fridge for an Omaha Steak. Say it with me one time in your best Homer Simpson voice: "Mmmmmmmmm.... Omaha Steeeeeeaaaaaks...."

Posted by Glenn Tanner at 01:34 PM on June 20, 2006

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