Archive for September 2nd, 2011

Livin’ On Spongecake…

I’ve told this story before, but not on this relaunched blog.  I was freshly reminded of it last night when Twitter exploded with mentions of Jimmy Buffett as his annual tour stop in the DC area exposed all the Parrotheads among the people I follow.

Story takes place five or six years ago, I can’t exactly remember which.  I was at my old bachelor pad, hadn’t met my now-wife yet, so I was spending a lot more time at baseball games than I do now.  That particular day, a Saturday, I decided to head down to Woodbridge to catch a Potomac Nationals game.  One of the players from the big league club was on a rehab assignment, coming back from injury.  Can’t remember who, though I do remember the autograph hounds being very disappointed that he was cutting them off at three signatures each.

I hadn’t checked the promotional calendar before I went.  This was mistake number one, as I arrived amid a sea of middle aged people decked out in Hawaiian shirt and foam parrot hats.  It was Jimmy Buffett day down at Pfitzner Stadium.  Really, that’s not too bad.  I don’t dislike Jimmy Buffet music, I just don’t actually understand what about his songs have created such a devoted fanbase.  But more power to him, more power to them, everyone gets to live and let live.

Single A baseball is Single A baseball.  There’s more attempts to keep attention focused on the field and everything is a little more intimate.  I was in a pretty good seat, as being accustomed to big league prices a first row seat right at first base was comparatively cheap.  And I was getting into the game, it’s always fun to cheer a little, dance a little, just generally enjoy being at the ballpark.  This, I recognize now, was mistake number two.

Apparently the grounds crew look for people like me.  People who look like they’re boisterous, having fun, and willing to sacrifice a little bit of dignity for the promise of free stuff.  Thus a few innings into the game I was approached by a member of the team’s cheer squad asking if I’d like to participate in something called “sing for your supper.”  I’d get a chance to go out onto the field, sing a song, and they’d give me five coupons for a free footlong Subway sub.  I was leaning towards no, shockingly enough, when they said my entire row would also get one coupon each.  Now I had the crowd on my side, pushing me to go out there.

What would the song be?  Well, it was Jimmy Buffett day.  So it would be Margaritaville.  Did I know the song?  Would I prefer another Buffett song?  No, no, I can sing Margaritaville.  Who can’t?  Great, meet over at that gate in the middle of the fourth inning.  Mistake number three.

I’m not sure why I thought they’d only ask me to sing the chorus.  Why I didn’t think they’d start the song from the beginning.  But when I got around to the gate I was immediately asked if I knew the first verse.  What?  No.  I knew it had something to do with spongecake.  So there were then four of us, all mid-20s, trying to desperately figure out the lyrics of the first verse of Margaritaville.  None of us knew the song beyond the chorus.

Oops.  Too late.  Get out there, here’s your mic.

It’s still the only time I’ve ever been out on a professional ball field.  Everything looks different from that angle.  I was standing between home plate and third base.  My strategy?  Pretend I was having mic problems.  I muttered something about spongecake.  Tourists covered in oil.  That’s as far as we got waiting for the bit to start.  Next two lines?  We were at a complete loss.  There were shouts to sing louder.  I’m not sure if I could have, even if I knew the song.  It was a gut wrenching combination of stage fright and just not knowing the song, the closest real life example I could imagine to the classic “I didn’t study for this test” dream.  At least I was wearing pants.

Finally, the chorus was near.  Redemption and salvation.  I’d nail the chorus, hope that was what people remembered, and then limp off the field.  Unfortunately that’s also when the grounds people started waving me over.  The inning break was over, I needed to get off the field.  So I walked off, but I wasn’t going to not sing that chorus, damn it.  It’s what I knew!

Then it was over.  I returned to my seat with a few pats on the back.  Nice try.  You’ll get them next time.  The kinds of platitudes you expect to hear a pitcher get after giving up three home runs and being pulled before getting a single out.  I’d blown it, and that was that.

I still get a little bit of panic when I hear the song today.  I still haven’t learned the lyrics.  I’ve tried, as some sort of redemption, but there’s a block there and they just won’t stay in my mind.

There’s two epilogs to this story.  Epilog the first is that I met someone a few weeks later who was at that game, was talking about the guy who didn’t know the lyrics to Margaritaville, can you believe that?  Mistake number four was admitting that was me.

And those Subway coupons?  Only good at the restaurant immediately outside the stadium.  So I never even got to use them.

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