So, a woman who sits near us at Rays games said, hey, let's fly to Kansas City this weekend to see the last two games of the season.
And one of the other women in our section, who happened to have a free airline ticket, and by coincidence happens to be married to me, said, great idea.
So these two women who knew each other only through the Rays went off together to Kansas City. I had a happy bachelor weekend, meanwhile, hanging out with Louie the Dog and looking for them on TV. They never made the camera, but they did chat it up with Todd Kalas of the Rays broadcast team. We love Todd.
In the movie Fever Pitch, the hero is part of a group of fans who live for the Boston Red Sox. Their preseason distribution of tickets is a sacred annual ritual. They sit in the same seats every night and know each other's lives.
This turns out to be us. We started some years ago with a few games each season. Somehow this grew to the point that we know Vern the usher, and we know to wait for our favorite beer guy. We know which members of the Rays Team are working, especially our (okay, my) favorite, the tall, sort of gangly dark-haired one who used to wear glasses.
We meet before each season at a sports bar for the sacred distribution of tickets. We tailgate. We trade e-mails. We pore over complicated spreadsheets for sharing the playoff tickets — not for anything would I be the "commissioner" of one of these groups.
We do the chicken dance. We play Spot the Cow. We ring cowbells, although I personally have philosophical concerns. (Do not get me started about the Wave.) We complain, good-naturedly, on the weeknights when there is a recorded national anthem.
Mostly, we love the team.
I was taught a life lesson about this by our seatmates, Doug and Anita, married ex-master sergeants, who love the Rays and who never — never — turn against them. I used to be one of those fans who, to avoid disappointment, acted bitter and cynical. I booed poor play, predicted strikeouts in key situations, moaned at players I didn't like.
Not so Doug and Anita. And over time I came to admire them so much that I embraced their philosophy whole-heartedly, so that even at the plate appearances of, say, Pat Burrell, a man who apparently forgot how to hit the baseball during his stay with the Rays, I made it a point to be on my feet shouting, "Come on, Pat!" And one night when some guy bought the seats behind us, apparently so he could do nothing but complain about B.J. Upton, I found myself on my feet drowning him out, yelling, "B.J! You're the man!" The virtue of being for somebody 100 percent, no matter what, is another lesson that it took me a long time to learn.
Also, Joe Maddon, the manager, is a genius. I am just telling you this in case you doubt.
We like the stadium just fine when it is full of people. We like it even more when there is a monstrous thunderstorm beating down on it. I like laughing at ESPN slobbering over the Yankees.
Even in this sweet October, we know that time is short, that the team will lose several players after this year because their contracts are up and they are free to seek better deals. We do not blame them. We will have to move ahead with the excellent players who remain, and the exciting home-grown new talent that will come along. So let alone what happens now, we are excited about next year.