It’s the top of the seventh—time for the stretch. Everybody stand and sing along.
Take me out to the ball game.
Take me out to the park.
Buy me peanuts and popcorn and cracker jacks.
I don’t care if I ever come back.
So it’s root, root, root for the …
Who thought up that name? Who vetted this? Did they not notice it doesn’t fit in The Song? And by the by, what happened to “Phillies?”
We understand we’re not the only farm team for the big guys, the real Phillies in Philadelphia. Yet and still, the Reading Phillies were garnering a lot of regional pride for the, uh, region, and c’mon, the Fightin’ Phils? Really?
Who the eff is Phil and why is he plural? And if we’re not being rhythmically correct, why not Fighting Phillips? Make a day of it.
Such thoughts went through the minds of those in the cheap seats the moment they discovered the name change. The season ticket holders, them that sit in the green and blue sections, of course, were hip to the whole affect much earlier in the season. Took it all in stride. They were well aware of the name change and the cognitive dissonance that unfolds in the seventh inning stretch. They’d not only gotten the memo, they were probably in on the decision. The minor league ball clubs go to great lengths to get meat in the seats. The best way is to get as many people as possible involved in the effort. No doubt they let the diehard fans help out with logistics and decision-making. Thanks a lot folks.
There are weirder things that minor league clubs do to get fans out. Since a game is not enough to get us to come out and support the team, they provide added entertainment on game day. There’s all kinds of wacky hi jinx going on between innings. Minor league baseball isn’t so much a sporting event as it is a circus, complete with the modern equivalent of clown cars, freak shows, and cheap carny prizes. The Reading Fightin’ Phil’s version comes with the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, t-shirt shooting gun, t-shirt slingshots, family feud with t-shirts as prizes, the tooth fairy who wears bodacious platform boots and cleans off the bases between innings, and some guy who invented a dance called the Brisco Disco.
When enthusiasm flags, they stop the game and bring out a couple of church groups to compete against each other for prizes donated by local businesses. Cases of sausages or a session with a local tanning salon, that sort of thing. This gets local folks as well as local businesses involved in the games. The contests are bizarre and are only weakly related to baseball. Two years ago my friend Liz won the basesball poetry contest and got to read her winning baseball poem to the appreciative fans. Never knew there was a whole sub-genre of poetry dealing only with baseball did you? Look for it in Barnes & Noble.
And the games are themed. For the latest game I attended, the theme had something to do with getting kids to read. The pregame show included a rendition of the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor reading Green Eggs and Ham to a crowd of parents and children out on what they call the promenade at the stadium, but everywhere else would be called the food court. The choice of Sam I Am for reading was ironic considering the team’s name change. I mean here’s a story by Dr. Seuss, a writer who couldn’t write without rhythm and rhyme to save his life and then there’s this desecration of The Song’s meter perpetrated by the Reading ball club management (with the help of the season ticket holders, of course).
Anyway, those of us in the cheap seats, attending only one or two games every decade, hadn’t gotten the memo and were not privy to the new shit. The name change took us totally by surprise.
We laughed and joked about it as consumers of cheap seats are prone to do when faced with an inscrutable situation. We imagined perhaps the Lehigh Ironpigs or the Williamsport Crosscutters–also farm teams for the Phillies–got pissed because we took the titular title. They whined to management. Or maybe the real Phillies got pissed because our crowd was growing. More and more people were coming out to do the Brisco Disco. Maybe they got jealous. None of their fans make asses of themselves in that way. Why should we get all the fun stuff and the team name?
Or maybe, we joked, somebody from the Philadelphia Phillies actually witnessed our boys playing and thought they’d like to distance themselves as much as possible. Based on the current game, we joked, that was definitely plausible.
We had a good ol’ time up in the cheap seats, all at the expense of the Fightin’ Phils management, or owners, or season ticket holders, or whoever decided on the new name’s, expense.
Then things got ugly. We hit the seventh inning stretch and couldn’t figure out how to sing The Song. Now we were shamed. Now it was personal. We were unable to scream out the name of our team when root, root, rooting. We were relegated to using the generic “home team.” No good. We’re the home team, sure, but we want to be the Fightin’ something or others. It was the equivalent of being shunted to the back of the bus on the way to the home for foundlings. We were orphaned while taken for a ride.
Root, root, rooting for the home team doesn’t do it. In Wrigley Field they root, root, root for the Cubbies. In New York they root, root, root for the Yankees. In Reading we root, root, root for god knows who. We are a motherless child.
The Song wound down. We lost the game in the rhythmic dissonance of a badly chosen name.
“Guess we ought to head out, beat the crowd,” Liz said. She was the driver, therefore it fell on her shoulders to state the obvious: the fun was over, The Song didn’t work. No amount of Crazy Hot Dog Vending, or tooth fairying, or t-shirt cannoning could save the day.
We trudged out with the other dejected cheap seat ticket holders.
We’ll never root, root, root for anybody ever again. How can we? We’ve lost our connection to our team. Maybe the Reading ballclub management will reconsider. Maybe they’ll start a search for a new name. I don’t know. Almost anything would be better than the Fightin’ Phils. Even the “Pirates.”