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Take me away from the ballgame - Justin Reedy

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed the precipitous drop in average I.Q. at Braves games?

Just the other night, some friends and I went to a game at scenic Turner Field (motto: Our surrounding neighborhood now has a lower violent crime rate than Detroit!) to watch our Atlanta Braves take on the Houston Astros.

Things started out pretty well: I took MARTA to the game (which as any longtime Atlanta resident knows is one of MARTA's two valid uses; that and going to the airport) and I arrived well before the first pitch, mocking the fools who were sitting in traffic waiting to pay $10 to park their Ford Subdivisions.

Anthony had been the recipient of six free tickets from his employer, and since there were only four of us attending we had room to spread out. That's important in the upper deck, where the seats are designed to hold the derri?res of people who shop at the Anorexic Republic.

So there we were, among the great unwashed, awaiting the first pitch by Russ Ortiz, occupying ourselves by discussing stats (Did you hear Albert Pujols could win the batting triple crown this year?) and standings (The Royals are still in first place!).

Our baseball-themed reverie was temporarily broken by the man in the row in front of us talking on his cell phone for several minutes, but it could have been worse: he could have been behind home plate, talking on his phone to someone at home who was watching him on TV waving frantically in the background. Don't laugh, I've seen it happen.

The game finally began, and we breezed through the first inning and a half without incident. Just then, a group consisting of every Little League player within the tri-state area arrived, like a bomb of miniature people exploding on our section. The 400,000 or so kids squeezed into the two rows behind us, defying no less than three laws of modern physics.

I get a kick out of children who are into baseball and I love to see them get to enjoy a game in person (I remember how fun it was when I was 10), but when you've got more Little Leaguers than the population of Senegal crammed into such a small space there's bound to be some annoying going on at some point.

Sure enough, the kids had been settled (and I use that term loosely) for about 30 seconds when one of the more vocal players queried his mates about the status of the game.

"What's the score, what's the score? What's the score?" he asked obnoxiously.

"It's up on the scoreboard, stupid!" one of his companions responded. (I like this one already.)

Later, the sharp kid chastised a teammate returning to the seats clutching a large soda, a hot dog and a bowl of Dippin' Dots ice cream in his hands and carrying a personal-size pizza under his arm.

"Jeez, did you buy the whole stadium?" the future Conan O'Brien quipped.

But the best nugget of joy came from a parent of one of the kids. Spotting one of his companions climbing up the stairs towards their seats, he called out: "Hey, do you want some shrimp pasta?"

What's wrong with this picture? Ballgames in Atlanta, for those of you who didn't know, can feature many food choices, from hot Rueben sandwiches to frozen yogurt. But us baseball purists stick to the main four ballgame food groups: beer (daiquiris count, but only in one of those tomahawk-shaped glasses, and soda counts if you're driving), hot dogs (we'll accept sandwiches, as well, if fatty enough), salty snacks (peanuts, of course, and soft pretzels), and sweets (cotton candy, ice cream and so forth).

But under no circumstances should there be shrimp pasta consumed at any ballgame, even one at the Ted. No tomato-basil focaccia bread, no foie gras, no brie on whole wheat crackers, no finger sandwiches. Sorry, the UN Security Council of ballgame food has vetoed that selection.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate sophistication as much as the next guy (except maybe people from Alpharetta and their faux sophistication), but there's a time and a place for that stuff. And baseball games ain't it.

Baseball is a relatively slow-paced game that isn't for people with short attention spans. It includes long periods of down time – best used for quiet contemplation, which frightens the inane, or discussion of the game's finer points, which terrifies the uninitiated – punctuated by brief moments of action.

Those of us who understand this need to stick together so we can shoot dirty looks at the people who come to ballgames wearing uncomfortable shoes, stand up and talk on their cell phones, and get so bored with their vacuous lives they do "The Wave" at pivotal moments during the game.

You know that guy? Don't be that guy.

Justin Reedy covers county government for the News Daily. His column appears on Thursdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 281 or via e-mail at jreedy@news-daily.com.