Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fun with Gladiators

Before we had kids, Mark and I attended various sporting events on a regular basis. Both of our companies possessed coveted season tickets to the Hawk's games, and whenever the bigwigs of either company could not make use of these tickets, they were up for grabs. We always grabbed them. I loved going to NBA games. I enjoyed the energy of the crowd, and I love the game. My most memorable basketball date was definitely when we witnessed the Hawks take on the Bulls. And this was back when Phil Jackson was the coach, and the team consisted of Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, some other guys, and, of course, #23. The best part about it? We were in Row B. That's the second row! From the court. We were showered with Michael Jordan's sweat whenever he ran by.

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 fight game.

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.

(No, we didn't have the stadium to ourselves. These pictures were taken prior to the game--while the teams were practicing.)


Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

After reading your comment over at my place, I raced right on over here to read the potentially "offensive" material. But you know what, you don't have to like baseball to be my fried...and I hope you'll extend the same courtesy and overlook the fact that I don't like that boring old basketball to be yours LOL

I did have to laugh at your description of the game--and honestly, the only part I found at all "offensive" was your choice of words in describing the ages of the players--middle aged? Really? I took that one to hear--most of my favorite Yankees are roughly my age....

Arby said...

I love watching baseball. So, I offended. Highly. Deeply bruised. Wounded. Mortally. Really.

Not buyin' it?


But yeah, I love baseball.

dclouser said...

I didn't realize you were so knowledgeable about sports! Or so into them. Most of this post was like a foreign language to me LOL. The 2 times friends took us to see the Pirates play, the only thing we enjoyed was the Primanti Brothers sandwiches! But sports are definitely a part of American culture and you are doing well to be part of that.

tsinclair said...

Guess what? We saw you guys at the game. We were to your right, several sections over. I looked for others, but could not spot anyone.

Guess what else? I was at the men's volleyball games the morning of the bombing as well. Small world

Glad you enjoyed the game. We left with about 4 minutes to go, much to the disappointment of Austin, "we never stay for the end". Yes, my husband does not like crowds or the pandemonium in everyone leaving at the same time. So, my son has yet to see that end of a game. We will have to work on that. :-)

CrossView said...

And I hate sports. I haven't liked football since I was in high school and was cheering for whomever I was dating and was madly in love with at the time.

Baseball is so boring to me. I used to go to the Shreveport Captains' games and did the people watching thing.

But hockey? Oh yeah! I so want to see a game live! Of course, I'd probably do the chant. 'Cause I'm bad. But my children would constantly tell me that I shouldn't. 'Cause they're good!