This Friday at Great American Ball Park, the lights went out. An early summer storm that puddled the warning track and soaked the cotton candy vendors pushed back the start time of a fireworks show to nearly midnight, and as the upper deck lamps extinguished and nothing happened for several minutes, the fans found that they were just going to have to wait some more.
This had not been a particularly happy day in the yard. The team had, just moments earlier, completed yet another loss. The rookie pitcher was nervous, the replacement for the replacement in the outfield was injured, and a $9.00 glass of wine tastes somewhat diluted after it has been rained into for three innings. Now, in the shadows, the grounds crew raked over the bent grass and a brisk wind swept across the empty Moon Deck from the Ohio River. There was garish glow from the scoreboard, which still flashed the losing score, and the occasional piercing flashes of a helicopter filming All Star promo footage from above, but otherwise, the ball park was dark.
And then there was fan light.
Winking first from a few cell phones in the lower bowl, flashes called out to one another across the field. A few more tiny stars appeared in the upper decks. The temperature dropped, the minutes ticked by, and smartphone galaxy spread across Great American Ball Park. The silhouettes of a few dugout inhabitants stood on the clubhouse stairs or huddled singly on the bench, far apart from one another.
Once fireworks began to arc across the sky against a blaring hip hop soundtrack, the phones were extinguished. Explosions cracked across the outfield, bounced off the distant concrete and empty plastic seats, and ricocheted back to the river. The sky was a thrilling mess. Some overwhelmed fans pressed their fingers against their ears, for protection, for a little space apart from what was going on in front of them. Some left early.
In these moments it was somewhat easier to remember the gorgeous behind-the-back ball flips to spark a double play from the second baseman, and how, in the bottom of the ninth, a hit from the first batter seemed to perk everyone up for a few moments. Just a few—right before the lineout, the groundout, and the other lineout which immediately followed.
This team, it’s in the dark right now. We who watch it have to seek out bright spots on our own, indicating the brilliant pinpoints to one another, lights which seem great distances apart sometimes. It isn’t fun and it doesn’t feel precisely fair: We shouldn’t have to work this hard to enjoy the product on the field. Cubs fans don’t have to work this hard.
In a few months this ballclub might be blown up, a painfully loud period which will bring chaos. We might see streaks of spectacular light against the night sky to offset long moments of uncertainty in the dark. It could be the reflection of Gold Gloves and the beginning glimmers of new championship trophies.
Or it could be due to the fact that the ball park has burst into flames again.
I don’t know what will happen. I do know, however, what happened at Great American Ball Park last night after the mess above our heads faded away—the swiveling eye of the chopper, the spectacular, flashing mayhem of the rockets, the losing score on the enormous flatscreen in the sky.
The lights eventually came back on.