A lot of you—especially those of you out Auburn way—might already know about this. Perhaps you’ve already rendered a judgment on me and my “friend” Michael based on our conduct at the final Doubledays baseball game of the season. It’s possible nothing I say here will change your mind. But let me try.
The evening started innocently: Two guys who suffered through one too many dreary Syracuse Chiefs games this summer opting for a far friendlier baseball venue on Sept. 4 to cap off the year.
Just so there’s no confusion, the Michael I’m talking about is Michael O’Neill, husband of the talented and beautiful Moe Harrington, undisputed first lady of local theater and a tireless crusader for social good. Michael does some acting, too, but let’s not get carried away. He’s basically a retired lawyer and state pensioner best known for being married to Moe Harrington. It’s reasonable to say that Michael and I both have too much time on our hands.
Which helps explain how we ended up at the Doubledays game. Heading into Falcon Park, we ran into another guy with too much disposable time: Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse). I used the opportunity to advise Maffei on the Syria situation and to inform him of my upcoming trip to Russia later this month to search for Cyber-Leaker Edward Snowden. Dan’s no dummy. With no prompting from me, he seemed to grasp that among his constituents, I rank high in terms of being likely to lose my passport and visa while touring a hostile superpower.
“Let me know if you need anything,” he said darkly, then he and one of his functionaries scooted off to watch the game.
What happened next is hard to explain, let alone justify, even in the context of it being dollar beer night. Michael and I had purchased general admission seats at the ticket window for $7 each, eschewing the box seats which cost a whopping $8. It was a rational choice. Beautiful Falcon Park is so tiny you can’t find a bad seat. Why not save a buck and buy an extra beer?
What prompted me to try to beat the system and plop my butt in a box seat over the first-base dugout is a mystery to me. For convenience purposes, let’s call it a crisis of character. Michael sat next to me. We’d watched maybe three pitches when an usher approached.
“Do you have tickets for these seats?” she asked.
Times like these are when you need a really good lawyer, someone who will stall, obfuscate or at least stop you from incriminating yourself. I was not with that kind of lawyer.
“No,” I confessed. “Well, then you can’t sit here,” the usher said, giving an upward jerking motion with her thumbs reminiscent of an umpire calling a runner out at the plate.
Sheepishly, Michael and I got up and moved all of 15 feet to the general admission section. For the next several innings, I lived with the hope that I’d suffered nothing more than a fleeting embarrassment. No one had recognized me, right? But then a grim thought intruded: What if someone had recognized me and just not said anything?
It didn’t help my mood that the Doubledays’ shortstop was Cody Dent, son of Bucky “Bleepin’” Dent. I’m not trying to make excuses, but I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan. What Bucky Dent did to my emotional health when I was an impressionable adolescent no doubt helps explain why, at age 51, I’m stealing seat upgrades at a Single A baseball game.
That’s a matter of debate, but I said “Yes.” He continued to struggle for my name, so I gave it to him. Immediately he knew who I was, and he showered me with praise. And then. . .
“Yeah, I saw you get kicked out of those seats,” he said.
He introduced himself as Erik Sorensen, and of course he’s a media guy. He has written for The Auburn Citizen and worked in local radio. He handed me a card that listed his job as Hospitality, Media & Marketing. A chill ran through me.
See, I’m no dummy, either. I know how things work in gossipy Central New York. Public figures, even minor ones, have zero margin for error. Hell, you people can’t even let your HALL OF FAME BASKETBALL COACH take a semi-public nap, albeit in the most ungainly, contorted position imaginable, without taking a photo of it and turning it into a regional referendum on his work ethic.
Yep, I know the drill. Some enterprising moron no doubt recorded my ethical lapse with a camera phone and will post it on YouTube at a time calculated to inflict maximum damage on my reputation. What can I do except try to get in front of the story and manage the fallout?
Let me start by commending the usher, Kit, who has been at the park for 11 years, and was just doing her job. At the time, she seemed slightly embarrassed about enforcing the rules, but she should be proud of standing up to deadbeats like me and Michael. Especially Michael. Kit is the personification of Auburn: friendly, honest, fair-minded and consciencious. There are people who wonder why President Obama stayed in Auburn during his visit to Syracuse. To them I say: Go to Auburn. Experience the magic. Then ask yourself: Is there is anyplace on God’s Green Earth you’d rather stay than the Auburn Holiday Inn?
Let me also say in my defense that after I was outed, I bought five tickets for the 50-50 raffle, with all proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Had I won, I would have donated my winnings back to the foundation.
No, really. I would have. Finally, I wish to apologize to the Doubledays organization, including Abner, the team’s vaguely menacing mustachioed mascot, and to the entire Dent family.
I have no further comment at this time on the advice of my accomplice. I mean, attorney.