First, I would like to thank Randy McDonald for the shout-out!
As many of you know, I am a huge baseball fan. Among the baseball-playing parts of the world, you can learn much about a place by attending a game. Consider how much the bleacher creatures say about New York. Or what the fans at el Clásico del Beis told you about Mexico. Not to mention what you can learn about the Bolivarian Republic if you try. In fact, the only better ways to learn about modern Venezuela involve serious risk of physical harm. Well, more serious risk of physical harm.
In short, when Randy and Jerry, two of the principals of Laredo Petroleum, invited me to a minor league game in a stadium right outside the business district, only a serious health crisis could get me to say no.
I was the only guy in a suit in the ballpark. I may have been the only guy wearing a suit in downtown Tulsa. The Sloppy Revolution has taken full hold there, with one female-footwear-related exception that I’ll get to below.
Tulsa’s minor league stadium is brand-spanking-new and very very nice. There’s a great view of downtown’s towers over the first-base line. It has a modern jumbotron, good sightlines, and fences far enough out to make batazos the rare thing that they ought to be. What it doesn’t have is a winning home team. The Drillers are at the bottom of Texas League AA-ball. I have to admit that we left after the ninth when it was still 1-1, only to miss a top-of-the-tenth four-run massacre at the hands of the San Antonio Missions.
The first thing I noticed was that everyone stands up during the national anthem. Now, let me be clear. Most people stand at most MLB games, and those of you who know me will not be surprised to learn that I’m one of the people on my feet with the hand over the heart. (Those of you who have “enjoyed” my company at a game already know this.) That said, I’m pretty sure that far from everyone stands up at Fenway or China Basin or Chávez Ravine or Joe Robbie or the Bronx. Everyone stands up in Oneok Field.
(That is pronounced “Wun-oak,” not “Oh-nay-oak.” I had to be corrected.)
The second thing I noticed were the sponsors, or at least their publicity campaigns. I simply did not know how to react when a fellow in a hot dog costume started chasing two guys dressed as burritos around the near outfield. That was followed by somebody throwing ice cream containers into the crowd followed by another outfield race, this time made up of costumed little kids. All emceed by a wannabe Fred Durst.
Which brings us to the third thing that I wasn’t used to seeing at a ball game: an emcee! He was a chubby fellow with a little beard that I used to identify with Limp Bizkit. (In fact, I briefly grew one for about a month in late 2000.) He also wore a cape, which I did not understand.
The emcee announced a contest around the seventh inning. I wasn’t paying attention to what he said ... so I was bit surprised to watch two young women start crawling into the outfield from the third baseline wearing what looked like wolf masks. Er? What part of popular culture did I miss? That was followed right quick by another pair of teenage girls competing with each other in a dance contest, to the sounds Lady Gaga. The emcee egged them on to be more, well, “provocative.” They resisted his enticements. The winner, in fact, finally revolted against the emcee entirely and launched into the sprinkler, an utterly non-provocative dance move which, if you’re not familiar with it, unsurprisingly looks like the dancer is trying to imitate a sprinkler.
Finally, I did not expect to see so many three and four-inch high-heeled shoes worn by the game’s female attendees. I hadn’t seen so many stilettos since my last visit to Caracas. The footwear really stood out as unexpected at a game, especially given the general level of sartorial sloppiness, including among the wearers of the heels. Once clued-in, however, I began to note that far more women wore heels in Tulsa than in the Northeast or South Florida, at least in upscale strip malls around Utica Avenue and slightly-less-upscale coffee shops in Midtown. It almost seemed that if you were female and not obese, you strapped on heels, regardless of whatever else you chose to wear.
Anyway, it was a fun game, with good conversation, great views and not-entirely-terrible ball play; the only downside was that we couldn’t smoke a couple cigars at the stadium. (But that is true everywhere these days.) It certainly told me something about Oklahoma. Thing is, I’m not smart enough to understand what. And so, I ask you.