In defense of the fan that leaves early

Many don’t, but some memories stay memories.

By that I mean, some experiences you hold on to for a while and some, you hold on to forever.

There is one particular specific seemingly boring memory from my childhood that I can remember in vivid detail and that is sort of a guiding principle in my life. Or at least I TRY to make it one. I don’t always succeed.

We were driving to church I remember, on a sunny morning, working our way through Oakland, probably on some “faster” [wink] “back way” of my father’s, when a woman in a nondescript car abruptly pulled in front of us and then proceeded to drive a bit oddly. Didn’t seem to know what she was doing or where she was going. Lost? Drunk? Stupid?

I was probably 10 or 12 at the time and one of us five girls piped up to scold the woman all, “Wow. She can’t drive. What a moron.” or whatever the kids were saying back then. Maybe, “Grody to the max. What a bad driver. Stick it in your ear. Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

I don’t know.

My father then said what I’ll never forget, “You notice she pulled out of the hospital parking lot? Maybe she just got bad news. Maybe she just found out she has cancer. You don’t know anyone’s story unless they tell it to you.”

Suddenly five very judgmental girls on their way to church (THE IRONY IS NOT LOST ON ME) were quiet. What if she DID just find out she was dying?! We are mean mean girls.

Why am I telling you this story? Other than my usual making it about myself?

And how am I going to tie that story into what Joe Starkey wrote in the Trib this morning?

Watch and learn.

Joe’s piece was written to lambaste fans who leave local sporting events early. I don’t know really what lambaste means, but if it means “judges them like Judge McJudgerston” then lambaste is the word I want to use.

In the piece entitled “Real Fans Don’t Leave Early,” Starkey says:

Real fans stay to the bitter end, though I acknowledge legitimate excuses (medical emergency, romance) for going home early.

I know the argument: If you pay your hard-earned money for a ticket, you have the right to do whatever you please. Agreed. Just as people who pay for concert tickets have the right to sing along, off-key, in my ear, on every song. Just as people who pay for airline tickets can push their seat back into my knees and snore like a grizzly.

That is their prerogative.

And it makes me want to punch them.

Dear Joe Starkey. Meet my father Terry David. Would you like to punch this man in the face?

No, he’s not an annoying airplane passenger. No he doesn’t sing along at concerts.

But my father, God love him, is often an “Early Leaver.”

I know. Flogging seems too good for him. Stoning maybe would be a more appropriate punishment?

He takes the young teen he mentors to games, doesn’t always stay until the end. He’s got to get the kid home by a certain time. He’s been known to leave Steelers games after the third quarter. He is a huge fan and he goes when he can, but sometimes, he’s with a grandchild who doesn’t want to stay for the whole game.

Sometimes, I think he wants to beat the traffic.

Stoning is too good for him. Beheading maybe?

When I mentioned I left the most recent Pens game after the second period, I took some flack for it. Some lighthearted, some not.

One of the readers, who is a dear and in no way on my bad side, said that the thing that bothered her was when like a man in a business suit comes in halfway through the first period and leaves halfway through the third. He doesn’t appreciate the opportunity.

But here’s my thing. Who can know THAT man’s story unless he tells it to you? Maybe he’s a lawyer who works a bazillion hours a week and he can only get away briefly for a respite? Maybe he’s not a “business man” at all. Maybe he had a job interview. Or court. Or a date that stood him up. Or a funeral. Who can know? Why assume? Why waste the energy to get mad at him unless you walk up to him and say, “Why did you arrive late and are you planning to leave early?”

When I saw Madagascar Live, Mike Rupp showed up late. Late enough to inconvenience people because we had to look around his giant body to see the show while he found his seat in the dark. Beheading is too good for Mike Rupp. Firing squad?

When you’re at the Pens game and 2,000 people leave during a time out in the third when we’re down by three goals, how are you going to determine WHICH of those 2,000 people are leaving for legitimate reasons, as determined by you, and which deserve the punch in the face? There’s no way to know. So you either ignore them and sit there with your PERSONAL choice to stay, or you sit there and seethe at the entire lot of them and fantasize about lining them up and punching them in their faces. Every one of them. Even the girl that feels suddenly like she’s going to be sick and is just trying to make it to the bathroom in time.

Granted if someone stands up in front of you in the middle of an important play and walks out, you can yell at him to SIT DOWN! And hope he doesn’t have a bladder control issue that just flared up. Then you can yell SIT DOWN AND PEE YOUR PANTS OR YOU’RE NOT A REAL FAN!

Do you see what I’m getting at here? You can’t know everyone’s story. Look how many people judged The Knitting Lady as “not a real fan” because she knits during Pens games. She shouldn’t even go to games. She’s a waste of a ticket!

We asked her her story and found out she’s a bigger fan than most of us. A real fan. A real fan who spends probably over $20,000 a year on Pens tickets and merchandise and custom-made souvenirs. A real fan who needs a way to calm herself down during the game she loves to watch.

Now when anyone on twitter spies her during a game broadcast and tweets, “Did you see the lady knitting behind the bench?! What a bitch!” you will see five or six tweets in response defending her to the person who doesn’t yet KNOW HER STORY.

People are ALWAYS going to leave early. You’re not going to stop it. There are always going to be people who need to leave or who want to leave. It’s their choice. It’s their story. You don’t know what it is. So don’t waste your energy getting mad about it.

I have to leave some sporting events early. It’s the nature of leaving children with babysitters. We say what time we’ll be home and then we have to be home at that time. “Then why bother going? Stay home!” some will say. Because I love the chance to get out of the house with my husband. To see the boys in action for as long as I can before I get back to being a parent to my children. I’m taking what I can until such a time I can take it all from beginning to end.

Sometimes, during a Pirates game, I might try to beat the traffic. So I don’t waste an hour sitting in my car and not moving. Firing squad is too good for me. Strap me to a rocket and shoot me to the moon?

And sometimes, like the time last summer, I might leave early because the Pirates are losing 20-1 and it depresses the hell out of me.

But you, you’re going to sit there until that last out is caught. And then and only then will you stand up and mentally pat yourself on the back for sticking it out.

You’re right. You are a real fan. I am not.

And believe you me, one day at the gates of heaven, behind which I see millions of people walking around with t-shirts that read “Certified Real Fan,” if I hear “Well, we’d let you in, but we’ve noticed a disturbing trend in your sporting events attendance,” I will rue the day I wrote this post as they viciously drop-kick me to hell to join the pigeons and Tom Brady.

And my dad.


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