Le marquee du stade
August 5, 2009
People whisper your name, whenever I’m around. They know that I don’t want to hear it. Too late for all that. I wish I’d been stopped at the start. Pie IX or Viau. Two ways to get in—but there ain’t no escape from your AstroTurf heart.
We met thirty years ago. You were awkward and shiny and teeming with potential. Full to capacity—and a bit waterlogged—you stuck a permanent shiver in my spine. The guy on the mound kept throwing to first. A bald chicken chorus scored the scene. Every pick-off maneuver plucked barnyard strings. A real down-homefield advantage. Lasorda burned ‘em off the screen. But we found other means.
Cheering at the wrong time… making un-ironic waves… all that “Val-de-ri, val-de-ra” jazz… Yeah, it was more than just you, stade-muffin—it was how we felt inside of you.
Now you’re disporting yourself with International Salons; and I’m Pie Nine-ing away for the symbolic field. I know I’m projecting. You were never The Fairest. But did you have to hook quite so far foul? I even heard you’ve been doing it with trucks. You’re taking a dump on my childhood.
In the beginning, there were rainouts. And Fall doubleheaders. A lot of fun to watch—but they screwed up the rotation and cost us three pennants. A full count of pleasure and pain. Then they struck out the rain and the fans took a walk.
Personally, I supported the roof. (Not structurally, of course.) Nominally retractable, it was slower than most weather systems. “Don’t let’s ask for the sun, we have bright orange Kevlar,” the little fan inside me would say. But it drove them off in droves. Quebecers get enough of their orange on at the Bronzage.
I guess that’s a cop-out—blaming friends for the split. I stopped coming so often; you shat concrete bricks. And of course you had other admirers. Trumpet Boy for instance. The guy was a spazz, but he wore his heart on his cheeks. He never missed a game. He put his body on the line: shamble-dancing down stairwells (beer-bellied, short-shorted) without motor skills. He got sweaty and puff-faced, but his head never swelled. Unfailingly gracious—incoherent as hell—he whipped out his autograph one time. You couldn’t read the name, but the title said it all: “Something Something, Trumpeteer.” I loved sharing that with you.
I remember exactly when everything changed. I didn’t get over you. The pangs linger on. You just slipped into my permanent loss column. Fire sales… strikes… infrastructural gloom… they must have contributed, but it didn’t feel that way.
Just a regular Saturday matinée. Another day in the bleachers. Another game with the Cubs. Absolutely nothing at stake. Both pitchers were on—and the defense was tight. We plowed into the eleventh, with the score tied at one. It was time to press our luck. With every passing inning, more box seats opened up. The VIPs got tired and security got bored. The longer the contest, the shorter the odds.
The Cubbies pushed a run through, but the Expos got it back. By the top of the thirteenth, I could almost touch the field. I was with a couple buddies: eating bretzels, spewing salt. The bad guys scored again.
The man behind us cackled: “Hé! C’est ti-guy-doux!”
With his crazy blondish afro and his Hitler-style moustache, he made us feel alright. There was beer foam in his nostrils and Asperger’s in his eyes. He was alone in the row—and clearly always would be.
As long as he keeps smiling, I thought, I will take whatever comes.
Then the home team filled the bases, without using any outs. A sacrifice would tie it; a single win the game.
The two-tone moustachfro jerked his thumb toward the Spheres.
But the clean-up man died swinging and the next one got DP’ed.
I folded my scorecard and turned back with a shrug.
The smiler had taken it on the chin.
“Fuck you, baisse-bol,” he burped.
They oughtta write it on the roof.