Although we enjoyed basketball, our favorite events came in 1996 when the Olympics came to Hotlanta. Mark's company offered us tickets to witness the women's semi-final games in soccer. And we also splurged and bought ourselves men's volleyball tickets. I don't recall who played. I only remember that our games took place the morning after the bombing at Centennial Park. Since the Omni where the games took place was close to the park, we experienced the scrutinized check-ins that are now so commonplace at any public venue. And, as almost-newly weds trying to find our way in the world, our "splurge" got us nose-bleed seats, but we still had a fantastic time.
Since those days of long ago, children have entered our lives, making sporting events more difficult. Not that children don't have a place in the stadium, but lugging diaper bags and babies through crowds only to have the kids squirm and complain in their seats is not the best use of finances or time. We have taken in a few baseball games with the kids, but only when we were able to get free or almost-free tickets. Baseball is by far NOT my favorite sport. I chalk it up to the fact that I grew up a world away from the game. And I always laugh when the "World Series" for baseball rolls around each year. I mean, I know there are some Americans who think that life revolves around them; perhaps they are the ones who define the "world" as the United States and that one team from Canada.
So, for the few times we have caught the Braves in action, the kids , like me, have found sitting in the scorching sun to watch some middle-aged men maybe hit the ball and then maybe make it all the way around the diamond as exciting as watching your hair grow. (And my apologies to the many baseball enthusiasts I just offended with that statement.)
Moreover, having grown up where football is a sport where the foot actually makes contact with the ball, I have historically had the same relationship with football in this country as with baseball. However, when the Falcons went to the Superbowl back in the '90s, I had my husband explain the complicated-looking game to me. Once I understood it, I actually found American football is fascinating enough that I enjoy watching a game now and then, both on TV and in the Georgia Dome. Although, as I recall, during the last Falcons game we went to, I was more entertained by the drunk guy in front of us than the game, but maybe that is because he wouldn't sit down and thus blocked my line of vision.
Crowds can get rowdy at hockey games too, and we've been to our share of those. Before the Thrashers were born, Atlanta had a minor league team called the Knights. Because of the team's amateur status, tickets were cheap. For $10, you could score seats fairly close to the
While the Knights have been replaced by our NHL team, out in the 'burbs we have another minor league team called the Gwinnett Gladiators. We as a family got our first taste of the Gladiators last night...and all for free! An old dentist friend of ours happens to be the Gladiator's dentist (imagine the miracles he has to do when stray pucks meet those mouths!), and his dental office annually sponsors a special reading program. We took part this year, and scored free tickets for the whole family! Pretty good seats too.
We had such a great time last night and even discovered some teaching moments at a hockey game. For example, either we were sitting in the season ticket holder section where the fans meet together on a regular basis to cheer on the team, or I completely missed the memo. Because every now and then, our entire section would break out in a chant, the words of which I could not discern. However, it very clearly ended in a big "You suck!" at the opposing team, an ending that was not lost on the children. We discourage that phrase in our house. (Modeling not using that word is hard for me because I have to bite my tongue when I want to say things like, "It really sucks that we can't sell this house" or "It really sucks that our church is closing".) The lesson lay in explaining to the children why a couple hundred adults might be acting like children by demeaning the other team in that way. At another point, the whole stadium began loudly booing the team from Kalamazoo. Alex, my compassionate one, turned to me and stated, "Well, that sure is mean!"
Another lesson was found in that old phrase, "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out." I shared that phrase with the kids before the game, and they rolled their eyes at me and gave me their usual, Mom, you're kind of crazy, do you know that? look. Turns out we all enjoyed the many body slams which shook the glass and caused sparks of ice to fly from the players' skates. But then in the third period, two players threw their helmets (or hats as my littlest called them) to the ice, knocked each other to the cold floor, and began whaling on each other. The lesson lay in explaining to the kids why the audience was cheering them on. The resulting Time Out in the Penalty Box at least proved to show the children the good use of a Time-Out.
Lessons aside, the kids were very into the game the whole time. (Well, except for maybe the Princess who stated emphatically a couple of times, "I'm bored.") The energy in the stadium was electric as it usually is at such events, and my children caught that vibe. They cheered, danced, vied to catch the various prizes that flew from the prize shooter, performed a pretty good YMCA, and--thankfully--did not join in on the You Suck Chant.