One of the things that Mack and I enjoyed together, especially when she was young, was watching sports. She would sit with me on Sundays and signal all the touchdowns we witnessed. She would get up early with me to watch Wimbledon finals over breakfast. And I was completely successful in making her a tried and true fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. As a family, we made dozens of trips to St. Louis over the years to attend games; and many times, I would pick up Mack from school and just the two of us would head down to Busch Stadium for a weekday, evening game. We watched hundreds of games on TV, listened to the Cards on the radio on long car rides, and engaged in some most excellent tag-team trash talking against our misguided family members and friends who had the misfortune of loving the Cubs.
In 2004, through a friend of mine who was a former umpire, I obtained two tickets for Game 5 of the World Series between the Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox. Mack and I were thrilled; and on the night of Game 4, I drove home early from a work trip so that we could attend our game the next day at Busch Stadium. Well for those of you who don’t remember—or who, like Mack’s dad, don’t care—the Cardinals did not win Game 4. And they really needed to win Game 4, because they had lost the first three games of the best-of-seven series. I was listening to the game on the radio in the car and had not yet reached home when the Cardinals lost. As soon as the game was over and the reality of their loss set in, I started crying and my cell phone rang. It was Mack. She was also crying (although not quite so hard as her mother), but to hear her shaky and sad little ten-year-old voice was heartbreaking to me. How cruel was I to have dangled a World Series ticket in the face of small, sweet sports fan; and how horrible of a mother was I to have purchased Game 5 tickets to a-once-in-a-lifetime event? Don’t answer that.
Oh, but wait…the Cardinals in the World Series is NOT a-once-in-a-lifetime event, now is it? And, for those of you who don’t remember—or who, like Mack’s dad, don’t care—the Cardinals made it back to the World Series just two years later. As soon as our Redbirds had won the National League pennant, my friend the former umpire insisted—actually, he demanded—that this time I purchase a ticket for a game that would most certainly be played. Of course, I took his advice, he took my $350 for two seats above right field, and Mack and I attended Game 4 against the Detroit Tigers on October 26, 2006, in the brand-new Busch Stadium. We arrived early and strolled around the stadium, taking in the festive atmosphere and clutching our bright white World Series towels we collected upon our entry at the gate. We shopped for gifts for a Card fan buddy of Mack’s in Springfield, and we ate a ton of junk food. Mack was never a big talker, but she was particularly quiet as we finally made our way to the seats. The shiny new stadium was so beautiful that night, the music was blaring, and the crowd was bustling with energy and excitement. Mack not only knew this was different from every other single baseball game she had attended, but she also appreciated the experience as it was happening. Just as I was finishing the startling calculations of our expenditures, she tapped me gently on the shoulder. I turned to look at her adorable freckled face, her big brown eyes were wide and sparkling, and she whispered in a sort-of-breathless amazement, “Mom, we’re at the World Series!”
350 bucks for 2 tickets + 2 twenty-dollar-bills for parking + 150 bucks for souvenirs and food + 5-4 Cardinal victory + 1 delighted daughter = priceless.