Have you ever had one of those days when, for whatever karmic reason, the forces of nature conspired specifically in your favor? Like life just decided to comp your tab that day? The season-opening series between the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks put me in mind of a memorable one for me.
March 31, 1998. I was living in Arizona, discussing the sorry state of professional sports in our desert metropolis with my two roommates Jake and Steve. On TV, we watched news choppers circle around the shiny new Bank One Ballpark as it prepared to open its gates for the very first time to welcome Arizona's first ever professional baseball team, the Diamondbacks, who would face off against your very own Colorado Rockies. Big day for the Grand Canyon State. New team, new stadium. Arguably the biggest sports day the Zonies have ever seen, judging by the number of idiotic reporters scampering around town conducting moronic interviews about "D-back's fever."
We lazily contemplated the chances of somehow scoring tickets when one of the cake-faced broadcasting Barbies began chirping about how the Diamondbacks planned to release 500 upper deck seats at a buck a pop sometime around noon. This was all the motivation we needed. It had just turned 11 and we weren't far.
Within minutes we were cruising down the interstate, blasting some good quality '90s hip-hop, high on unreasonably optimistic expectations and low, extremely low, on cash. Our first obstacle: the complete and utter absence of parking. Since we were all from New York, we simultaneously suggested bribing the guy in the employee lot.
We pulled right in, but without a glossy placard dangling from our rear view, Leon immediately stepped in front of our vehicle. And Leon was exactly that type of enormous man who could stand in front of vehicles without even considering that they might not stop.
But his impressive stature was dwarfed by his extremely poor negotiation skills. He immediately agreed to our first offer of $15 to let us park. After pocketing our three crumpled, slightly sweat-dampened five-dollar bills, he unwittingly bestowed upon us our golden ticket onboard the gravy train.
"I won't be here after the game," Leon said, leaning in, "so in case the next guy asks you where your pass is when you come back, just tell em you know Bobby Meachum."
"Who's Bobby Meachum?" I asked.
Smiling and swinging both of his arms up towards the sky, our oversized event staff oracle proudly proclaimed, "Bobby Meachum?!...Shit he runs this place!"
And that was that.
After briefly wondering if this Bobby character was the czar of parking-lot structures or the entire stadium itself, we parked and walked in.
Right away, we were confused and disheartened to see a line of 5,000 fans awaiting the release of just the 500 tickets. With the "one per person" rule eliminating all of our corrupt options, and scalpers asking no less than $800 a pair, it seemed hopeless.
After a sigh of contented resignation, we moseyed on into nearby Alice Cooperstown for a frosty consoling brew. Once inside, we noticed some velvet rope segregation happening. One lane leading revelers into the cramped cattle car bar area, the other up a sweeping, plushly purple flight of steps to where I imagined some form of Saturnalian debauchery was taking place.
The only issue was a taut, sharp-faced woman with a shiny metal clipboard and headset guarding the staircase. There would be no getting past her. Like Charon awaiting his coin to ferry souls across to the other side, she was unwavering in her steadfast dedication to her job.
To our surprise, the gatekeeping fembot suddenly left her post to chastise a subordinate. Without uttering a word, all three of us glided up the soft, cushiony steps. When we reached the summit, we soon realized that up here, everything was free. A blur of overflowing martinis, king crab legs and petite peppercorn-crusted filet mignons. Merrymaking, mirth and gluttony: It was all ours. We got right to work on gin and tonics -- four at a time, for the three of us.
I felt like Lucullus sitting at our own private polished wood table on the second floor balcony overlooking the throngs of commoners below, pushing and shoving to pay $8 for warm Bud Lights in thin plastic cups. I was gulping down silver chalices of Bombay Sapphire and throwing them over my shoulder when I was done, sweeping lobster claws and oyster shells off the table with my forearm. At one point, I may have even asked a waiter to summon the fiddlers.
I hastily cast aside my fantasies though, when I realized the game was about to start. Everyone here obviously had tickets and had already left. With the bar almost completely empty and employees tossing us inquisitive stares, it was only a matter of time before some overzealous assistant manager came over and blew up our spot.
We needed another plan. The scalpers were all home bundling cash, and bribing the volunteer octogenarians at the turnstiles was definitely a lost cause.
Suddenly, Jake looked up and shouted, "Bobby Meachum!".
"What about Bobby?!" Steve asked. "We don't even know this guy."
Jake smiled and said he would handle it. "Remember," he said, beaming, as he opened his arms to the heavens. "Bobby Meachum runs this place".
At this point, we were legally drunk, measurably overconfident, and definitely determined to ride this one out. We thanked the mopping busboys and headed out into the night for our Ave Maria. Without further discussion, we marched right up to the will-call window. When the freckle-faced, red-headed rep greeted us in a sprightly tone, Jake went to work.
"I'm hea to pick up my tickets" he slurred in his suddenly thick New Yawk Goodfellas accent.
"Sure, what's the name?" this particular Annie yipped.
"See hea's the thing -- ya understand? My Uncle Bobby, da Bobby Meachum dat works here... he left 'em hea for me, and I don't know if he puttem unda his name or my name, yanowhatamean?"
Obviously at this point, Steve and I could barely contain ourselves from bursting out in laughter, and we quickly flipped around and leaned up against the brick wall adjacent to the window, out of view.
"I'm Jake Black, so you can look unda that, or you could look unda Meachum, howeva you do tings around here. Eitha way, my Uncle Bobby left me tree tickets and I'm hea to pick em up, so dat's dat"
We nervously inhaled cigarettes while we waited for this poor girl to look through every drawer and folder. We quietly discussed if this was even legal. I mean, is it a crime to ask for something that's not yours? I didn't think so, but I wasn't sure. I'm actually still not sure even today.
Obviously, Rubylocks couldn't find them. Jake eventually gave the whole spiel again, almost word for word, to several other supervisors. Eventually the entire office joined in on the Easter egg hunt for Uncle Bobby's tickets.
Soon, the big bossman came over, and this one I stepped out to catch a glimpse of. His voice seemed like it belonged to a guy you do not want to fuck with, and after seeing him, I was right. Big, brawny, mid-fifties, slicked back Pat Riley hair and that chiseled, off-kilter Eric Roberts face with wide open eyes that screamed domestic violence. "Are you absolutely sure there are tickets waiting here for you this evening, sir?" he asked directly through the glass, without using the microphone.
"Like I said, Uncle Bobby left me da tickets, I told him to puttem unda my name cuz othewize howwuz I supposed to pick em up, but, you know, he's so buzy, especially today. I know dey're here, though. You know how he is -- a no bullshit kinda guy"
And with that, the B-movie villain nodded, backed away from the window and disappeared into the backroom. This is where I thought we would find out exactly what the penalty for false representation at a will-call window was.
And then it happened.
The granite faced manager returned, and with a curt but polite apology, he slid three huge, laminated, hologram-bejeweled necklace tickets under the window and wished us a pleasant evening. Without missing a beat, Jake flicked his cigarette and snatched the glossy, ginormous passes off the counter and walked toward the entrance. Like young polygamist wives, we turned and obediently followed him in silence through security, past the turnstiles, and beyond the gates into what seemed like the Elysian Fields.*
*(Though my usage here was mythological, there was another Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. It was the site of the first organized baseball game in 1846 -- so that metaphor works out great right here, I think.)
It took us a minute to figure out what just happened. We hadn't spent a dollar since we gave Leon five, and now we were somehow inside the park, holding rock star VIP tickets to the biggest sporting event in state history. And of course, the seats were outrageous.
Third-base line, six rows out, private reserved section with tuxedo-ed waitstaff. Already I was doing flight-time calculations in my head, earnestly considering a quick Southwest trip to Vegas that night. I mean, at this point, Lady Luck wasn't just on our side; she was offering up happy-ending massages.
I even took it to another level. I tracked down the guest services office and demanded the bags of crappy schwag we missed out on because we were late. They were unhelpful at first, but after I flashed some hologram bling up in their eyeballs, they promptly managed to find a few leftovers in the backroom.
Damn straight... don't make me call Uncle Bobby, bitches.
The Rockies ended up whooping some D-back ass that night, 9-2. We couldn't have cared less, though. Strolling toward the exits, belting out off-key Billy Joel while giving each other mistimed high fives, life couldn't be more perfect. But then it suddenly got perfecter. Out of nowhere appeared a trio of shiny-shirted, spiky-haired, orange-faced Scottsdale douchebags with huge Val Kilmer teeth, who offered us $50 each for our fancy tickets.
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I didn't want to sell mine, but I did, only because the idea of leaving this miracle adventure with more money than I started it with was just too good. It was all about today's design.
The real joy for me wasn't the free gin and shellfish. It was the stirring notion that at any moment, life might suddenly swing everything favorably in your direction. That today or even right now, it could all just open up for you -- and with a level head and a handful of wits, you could cruise-control right down that steady stream of green lights all the way to El Dorado.
We never did see Leon again, nor did we ever meet Bobby Meachum, though we later found out, in the D-Backs media guide, that a Mr. Robert "Mitchum" was in fact the Director of Stadium Operations... not the parking lot. We even wrote him a thank-you note.
We didn't send it, though. That, we decided, would be pushing our luck.