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Milwaukee Brewers Fans are Drunk and Rowdy

by Joey Grihalva

Welcome to Fort Wright

I amble out of the Roadway Inn around 3:30pm and sunlight blasts my

retinas, a painful reminder of the previous night’s debauchery. The air is crisp and cool, posing no threat to my hangover and perfect for an evening

ballgame. A few other guests drink Bud Light on the steps of the hotel.

A bald, beer-bellied, middle-aged man wearing a white Kentucky University polo shirt and blue jeans stands on the curb, sucking hard on his cigarette, chin high. He identifies himself as our cab driver.

“Where ya’ll headed?” he says with an unfamiliar twang.

“Downtown Cincinnati,” I reply. “We’re gonna check out that Oktoberfest before the baseball game.”

“Oh, boy. You know, it’s pretty nasty over there. I personally don’t spend much time across the river, over there.” He pauses to see if I know what the fuck he was talking about.

“Just more people with different colored skin on that side of the river, ya know? It’s a shame they made it under that railroad,” he says with a chuckle and a greasy smile.

“Uh

“What’s that thing for?” he says, changing the subject and pointing at my mp3 player/microphone.

“It records audio,” I mutter.

“Damn that thing sure is small. Doesn’t look very durable, if ya ask me. Say, who ya work for?”

“Maxim, the online news department,” I reply.

He slaps his knee. “No way! That magazine with them sexy broads? I didn’t know they got a website.”

“Yep, I mean, it’s mostly photo galleries. Very hot stuff. Our news team is pretty small,” I say before taking a swig from my can of Miller Lite.

“I’m just here for the game, but I have this with me in case any riots break out.”

His face lights up.

“What riots?”

I chug the rest of my beer.

“At the game. Probably while Johnny Bench is giving his speech. The anarchists, ya know? You didn’t see it on Twitter?”

His smug grin morphs into a confused, squinty mess.

“What the hell ya talkin’ ‘bout?”

“Well

news. Apparently this Canadian magazine called Adbusters encouraged some activists in New York City to make their own Tahrir Square on Wall Street.”

maybe

I should just let you find out

it’ll

probably be on the evening

“What tar-rear square ya talkin’ ‘bout?”

“The one in Egypt. The occupation.”

He shoots me a blank stare.

“Anyways, it’s called Occupy Wall Street and it’s supposed to start today. I have a suspicion they’ll be like-minded activists in cities around the country planning solidarity actions.”

“Get outta dodge!” he shouts and stumbles backward into his SUV.

“Goddamn Canadians, mind yer own fackin business! Anarchists. What is that? Bunch of deadbeats! Drugged-out shit-kickers. Why the hell would they disrupt a baseball game?”

“Sports are big business man. It’s an anti-capitalist thing. It’s not just the anarchists though. I’m sure college kids will get in on it, leftists of all-stripes really, even some people with different colored skin, as you put it.”

“That’s just frightful. Don’t they respect anything?” he moans.

“I read on the Internet that the solidarity actions will be spontaneous like those flash dance mobs that you see on YouTube. You won’t be able to tell the crazies from the regular folks. If they rush the field security better act fast before they occupy the pitcher’s mound.”

The man scratches his fat baldhead.

“What in the name of the Lord is happenin’ in this country? Where can you get away from it?”

“Not here,” I say, pulling out my iPod Touch and opening the Twitter App.

“Palestinians Set Bid for U.N. Seat, Clashing With U.S.,” reads a Tweet from the The New York Times.

“Job growth fails to dent US unemployment rate,” Tweets Al-Jazeera English.

“5 soldiers and 3 civilians dead in roadside blast west of Baghdad,” Tweets the Associated Press. No mention of the demonstration on Wall Street.

The previous afternoon I was picked up by a couple of childhood friends at my parents’ house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They are part of a group that started a Milwaukee Brewers road trip tradition three years ago. First, they traveled to St. Louis for a division rival game against the Cardinals. The next year they visited me and Target Field 1 in Minneapolis for an interleague border battle with the Twins. Then last September I joined them on a road trip to Cincinnati for an important late-season series with the Reds.

Not since 1982 have the Milwaukee Brewers looked so good. The dynamic duo of first baseman Prince Fielder and left fielder Ryan Braun dominated July and splashed onto the August cover of Sports Illustrated. The team was also blessed with spiritual leadership (and solid hitting) from an eccentric center fielder named Nyjer Morgan aka “Tony Plush” aka “T-Plush” aka “Tony Gumbo” aka “Tony Maccabee.” 2 The 2011 Brewers were contenders, much better than the 2008 Wild Card team that C.C. Sabathia carried into a first round route by the Philadelphia Phillies. Even so, on September 16, 2011 there were twelve games left in the regular season and missing the playoffs was still technically possible.

“We have to win these games,” Adam says after we smoke the first schwag blunt. 3

“I think it would be the worst collapse in baseball history,” Josh says with a sigh.

The pressure is high. The Brewers “magic number” is eight. That’s a fancy baseball term that has to do with winning your division and guaranteeing a spot in the playoffs. It is an unfamiliar concept to us. The last time the Brewers won their division was in 1982, before most of us were born. So you can imagine we use the phrase “magic number” a lot that weekend.

During a pit stop in Indiana the Harrison Raiders Boys Tennis Team of the Tippecanoe School Corporation unload into the gas station/Subway restaurant where we are eating lunch. They are an excitable gang of teenage testosterone, a few of them ordering three foot-long sandwiches and wolfing them down not ten minutes later.

“What’d you get to drink?” a tall, acme-smeared ginger kid asks one of his teammates.

“Water,” the other kid replies.

“That’s lame. I got a Cherry Coke. You know if God is nice he’ll make a miracle happen where you and Eric break your legs and I’ll get to play a match!” he exclaims.

I picture a teenage David Foster Wallace among their ranks, though he’d be on the bus reading DeLillo by himself.

When the second blunt is wafting over the highway we find ourselves in a construction zone. I imagine the car as an American football flying through a neon orange goal post.

“It’s good!” I whisper under my breath.

Once we are out of the construction area the football transforms into an air hockey puck sliding along the black pavement. Occasionally, a bold billboard breaks the boring Indiana landscape.

“The Holy Bible. Inspired. Absolute. Final. 1-800-647-TRUTH.”

Hysterical.

“I bet those fuckers aren’t even out of Chicago yet,” says Josh when we pass the hundred miles to Cincinnati marker, referring to the other half of our crew.

“We’re going to be hammered before they even get there. It’ll be like when I got to St. Louis at five in the morning and JP was hanging off the balcony,” says Adam.

And why not get hammered? Who doesn’t need a beer, or ten, in these twisted times? Even Barry Obama is hosting beer summits at the White House so black professors don’t sue the white cops who arrest them on their own property. Seems a bit unnecessary, but not an altogether batshit idea like bailing out and not prosecuting any of the Wall Street criminals responsible for the stock market’s grim slide.

Waiting for the rest of the crew

Friday night is a blur. When the hills and tress of Ohio appear on the horizon I crack open a reused Gatorade bottle two-thirds full of gin and juice.

“I’ll drink to that,” I say as we pass a billboard for the Creation Museum.

Rarely do I indulge in an “en route drink,” and never as a driver, but it happens. Heavy drinkers from Milwaukee have the luxury of writing off their so-called “alcoholism” to the culture of the city.

Milwaukee is consistently bestowed with “Drunkest City in America” honors, if not a close second to Boston. Like the Irish-Americans in Boston, the German- Americans of Milwaukee passed on their thirst for bier. A couple of guys named Fred and their countrymen built up “Cream City” over a century ago. Miller, Pabst, Schlitz, and Blatz all shipped their golden gold across the country, transforming my hometown into a major manufacturing center. But de- industrialization in the late 20th century left Milwaukee and the rest of “The Rust Belt” in shambles.

The assembly lines may no longer be in Milwaukee but our thirst for beer and booze hasn't gone anywhere. We drink young, we drink hard, and parents can even let their kids drink in a bar, if the establishment doesn’t mind. The drinking and driving laws in Wisconsin used to be deplorable. They’re getting better.

Drinking before and during sports events is customary. College students are experts at “pre-gaming,” drinking before a sports event or a night out. It’s not uncommon to see a two-story beer bong 4 at ten in the morning before a University of Wisconsin Badgers football game.

No surprise, our baseball team is called the Milwaukee Brewers. Our last ballpark 5 had a giant keg and stein behind the centerfield bleachers that our mascot Bernie Brewer would slide into when a Brewers batter hit a homerun. It was fantastic. The only kegs in our current ballpark are behind the concession stands, but the stadium, Miller Park, bears the name of our biggest brewer. 6

When I was born one of my father’s first thoughts was, “Well, we should get a keg.” Almost all of the parents of the Cincinnati crew drank in my honor that December night in 1985. I grew up with that gang. Most of our parents worked in the factories that made Milwaukee famous. Our collective working-class attitude gave us great pride in the $38 per person price tag on the two-night stay plus game ticket for the weekend in Cincinnati. More money for booze, we figure. The low-cost is possible because our hotel across the river in Fort Wright, Kentucky is a dump and the second half of our crew sneaks in to avoid paying any extra people fees. Also, the Cincinnati Red’s stadium has cheap bleacher seats, which are rare in modern ballparks, essentially gentrifying the audience for live baseball.

We get to Fort Wright a good four hours before the second convoy arrives. Our adjoining rooms at the hotel reek of cigarettes. Kentucky is one of those rebel states that still allows indoor-smoking. Wisconsin only banned it in the last few years. The law went into effect, ironically, on Independence Day.

Once we settle into our digs I am taught a drinking game called “Mexican.” It requires two dice, a cup, an alcoholic beverage and a lot of bluffing. I struggle with it and quickly get tipsy. Game 1 of the Brewers-Reds series is on TV in the background. Ryan Braun hits two home runs and reaches the 30/30 mark. 7 The Brewers win convincingly with additional blasts provided by Mark Kotsay, George Kottaras and Prince Fielder.

“Why did Prince have to say that shit now?” says Josh shaking his head, referring to our All-Star first baseman’s comments acknowledging he will most likely be traded after the season ends.

“Michael Wilbon is saying maybe the Cubs,” Adam reports.

“No fucking way, he’d get booed so hard,” I reply.

“That would really suck,” Josh adds.

The madness begins in earnest when the second convoy arrives. JP immediately hands out the t-shirts he had made with the words “BEAST MODE” printed on the front. The phrase refers to the signature gesture that Brewers players would do after a hit or a good defensive play. 8 It mimics a gesture from a character in the animated film Monsters, Inc., a favorite of Prince Fielder’s son. We are all very pumped about the shirts.

“We’re definitely getting on TV with these,” DJ yells.

I am initiated into a life-long drinking game called “Buffalo.” For this one you must always drink with your left-hand when around other “Buffalo” players. If you get caught drinking with your right-hand 9 then you must immediately chug the rest of your drink.

A huge outdoor Oktoberfest

On game day afternoon the racist cab driver takes the highway into downtown Cincinnati. He doesn’t seem concerned when Amanda, Adam’s East African- American girlfriend, gets into the SUV. However, when she is forced to sit on Adam’s lap due to a lack of space the creep jumps at the chance to join in on the anal sex jokes.

The festivities are in full-swing when we arrive in the downtown core, schnitzel sizzling everywhere. It’s an eight or ten block radius of full on German fare. Bratwursts on the grill and beer on tap at an outdoor festival is a formula us Milwaukeeans are very familiar with, but on the shores of Lake Michigan we associate those scenes and smells with the heart of summer, not mid-September.

The night before I got a St. Paul-meets-Pittsburgh vibe on the drive into Cincinnati. Walking around downtown confirms the comparison to Minnesota’s capital, though I’ve never seen that many people in downtown St. Paul. When I speak with a couple in their mid-thirties they are quick to note that we came at the right time.

“Cincinnati is never this happening. Downtown is usually pretty dead,” they admit.

Our crew does a fine job of livening up the place, assisted by all the available libations. Female employees dressed as the St. Pauli Girl are mercilessly hit on. A life-size Samuel Adams cardboard gets molested. Fresh-baked cookies are swiped from an unsuspecting tent. I down three or four Woodchuck ciders and a Weihenstephaner beer.

Most of the crowd is either red-clad or neutrally dressed, but every five minutes we come across other Brewers fans and proceed with the obligatory high fives, friendly shouting and “Beast Mode” gestures. As the sun sets we make our way to the Great American Ball Park.

View from Grihalva’s head

When I walk out of the hotel on Saturday afternoon I am in desperate need of fresh air. I am trying to center myself and mentally prepare for the Oktoberfest, the baseball game, and the inevitable after-party.

I have flashbacks of rowdy tailgates from my past; drunken afternoons and nights in the parking lot outside Miller Park and on the hallowed ground surrounding Lambeau Field. 10 I contemplate the events of Friday night and worry about how much we will ante-up.

“Is it safe out there? Will we ever make it back to Wisconsin?” I wonder.

“Sure,” I tell myself. “Just have to be careful not to start any fights.” That is, of course, much easier said than done. Consider the side effects of binge drinking. A person drenched in alcohol is no different than any other flammable object drenched in alcohol, a spark away from disaster. If the Reds go up big or the Brewers lose dramatically, who’s to say how any of us might react?

I imagine the scene at Great American Ball Park might be like the one at Target Field, where Brewers fans are so loud and proud that they seem to outnumber Twins fans. When we were in Minneapolis the Brewers escaped with a late win and I was sure our gloating would attract a few fists, but none flew. Granted, that was an afternoon outing and didn’t involve much pre-gaming. The affair in Cincinnati is a night game, which is always a different animal.

In truth, I’m not as worried about getting into a fight as I am about puking my guts out. I doubt my ability to hang with the crew. Don’t get me wrong, I still drink, just not like I used to. And I don’t know what level they are at because even though we grew up together, we’ve grown apart over the last decade, especially after I left home for college. With the exception of a few months here and there, I’ve never really returned to Milwaukee. I lived in Minneapolis for five years, another in Europe, and a few more in Canada, where I now live.

Sure, if you’re on Facebook you can see the bullet points of your friends lives and if you’re lucky, a few pictures. But social-networking websites will never compare to spending a weekend together. And when you share a common history it doesn’t take long to fall back into a groove.

What strip club?

After bar close on Friday night we are back at the hotel debating whether or not we should hit a strip club. It’s around 3 a.m. We drank at a bar across the parking lot from the hotel called Shimmers for most of the night. Between bar close and strip club discussion there are many games of Mexican and a blunt or two or three. DJ finds a brochure near the front desk for the cave that we spent a night in with our parents a decade ago. Someone’s iPhone provides a Pandora Radio old school hip hop/R&B soundtrack.

“If only we could drive to Louisville,” 11 I keep repeating.

Five years ago I went to Las Vegas for Josh’s sister’s wedding. It was my third visit to Sin City but the first as a gentleman of legal drinking age. The strip club on the other side of our hotel’s parking lot was my first and it set a standard that has yet to be matched. 12 A limo gave us a lift across the street and once we got to the cash registers there was a giant martini glass with a naked lady sitting on a blanket and pillows. The decor inside the club was immaculate, the lighting was intimate, the girls were gorgeous and I immediately fell in love with a stripper. Long story short, I had to go back the next morning to get my driver’s license and debit card. 13

The year the Milwaukee crew came to visit me in Minneapolis we hit The Seville Club after the game at Target Field, taking full advantage of their free entry with same day sports ticket and $10 lap dances on Sunday. I got a dance from a nerdy half-Asian girl who asked me for some advice on a Creative Writing assignment. She was working on something about an old lady who raises horses by herself. I can’t recall most of it, but I doubt she is not the next Diablo Cody.

That night in Cincinnati there would be no stripper stories. A Google search comes up empty except for a place called “Busty’s” that is supposedly nearby. On our way there I am reminded of the strip clubs in Atlanta, which are mostly in residential suburbs.

“Where are we?” Jimmy D. asks as we enter a gated community.

“At least there’s subdivisions here, it’s not like Mississippi where it’s just swamps,” Josh replies.

“We’re going to run into some fucking cult out here,” Jimmy D. says nervously.

The silent, dark streets make me think we are heading into a trap set by religious nut-jobs and once we get to the house there’ll be a sign in the window that reads, “STRIP SIN FROM YOUR HEART. TURN TO THE LORD.” But the address just leads us to some random house with no lights and no sign of being an unsanctioned strip club/brothel.

“How did that shit get on the Internet?” JP asks.

“I think someone was pissed at their girlfriend,” I say.

Game day morning

I have no clue what time I fell asleep late Friday night/early Saturday morning but I know that I missed breakfast. The crew comes back around noon with leftover Cincinnati-style chili, delivering much needed grease to my queasy stomach. They pick up a couple of fresh cases of Miller Lite and a bottle of brandy.

After emptying the cans into a cooler Josh hands me one of the cases and tells me to grab the last beer. But when I reach in all I find is a bottle of Smirnoff Ice.

“You got Iced! You got Iced!” Josh gleefully chants to the confusion of the rest of the room.

“What?”

“You gotta chug it now, on one knee,” Josh replies.

“What is this?” Adam shouts.

“If you find a Smirnoff Ice, you gotta take a knee and chug it,” Josh proclaims.

Apparently while I was sleeping in Josh invented a new drinking game. Jimmy K. gets Iced in the bathroom when he goes to take a shower. Another shows up in Amanda’s purse. And JP is amped when he finds one in a cooler.

We play more games of Mexican and I drink slowly. At some point we discuss the Oktoberfest and call the cab. That brings me to where this article began.

If you didn’t already guess, I made up that stuff about working at Maxim and

Occupy Wall Street solidarity riots.

Jimmy D. asks the racist cabbie about local strip clubs.

“Ain’t no nuddie bars in this area,” the fat fuck replies. “This here is what ya’d call

a ‘Christian society.’ The closest one is about forty-five minutes away. And that’s a pricey cab fare friends.” We’re not friends.

Besides what I’ve already told you about that morning and the Oktoberfest, my memory of the rest of the day is foggy. But I can piece together what happened from the notes that I frantically thumbed into my iPod Touch.

UNSCRAMBLING GAME DAY – I Underground Railroad

Perfect fucking day for a ballgame. Sit on my ass and drink some beers. Yessir. I wonder what the weather’s like in lower Manhattan? Tension with a chance of tear gas. That's the forecast whenever capitalism is questioned. Poor bastards. I was there in Toronto in the summer of 2010. That was just a G8/G20 protest, and

a relatively mild one at that. The folks in NYC are proposing an occupation. Heavy stuff.

Not a lot of black people at the Oktoberfest. Less than you'd find in Milwaukee at

a similarly sized festival. When I do come across a few I can almost sense the

segregation in the city. Thirty minutes before the game a huge chunk of the crowd starts heading in the direction of the Ohio River where the stadium sits.

I understand the cabbie's shitty racist "joke.” The National Underground

Railroad Freedom Center is just down the street from Great American Ball Park. As we walks past it I got a sinking feeling in my stomach, which isn't the alcohol.

“Why am I not going there?” I ask myself.

Because we're too busy drinking. When you're killing brain cells it’s just not worth it to try and absorb information. Not to mention, why pay to be bummed out when there's beer to drink and baseball to watch? And even if it is open that Sunday we have an American football game to watch. Scratch that, we have a Green Bay Packers game to watch, which is far more important than any old football game. Sports are such an effective distraction. Maybe too effective.

UNSCRAMBLING GAME DAY - II Johnny Bench Night

At Great American Ball Park there are lots of families, pink faces with a certain stoic expression that reads, “We spend a lot of time in Church.” Golf polos and khaki slacks. Impressive numbers for a Reds home game considering they had the least attended games, by my estimation, for Brewers opponents that season. But it is Johnny Bench Night. There is a statue being unveiled and the man is making a speech.

When we arrive at the stadium Bench is wrapping up his speech. I am too drunk to appreciate whatever he is saying. He works the crowd into a minor frenzy, at least by well-behaved Christian standards. We might have caught the whole speech but were too busy with our statue photo-op.

Our entrance is noticed by Reds and Brewers fans alike. Hard to miss seven guys and a black girl in matching "BEAST MODE" shirts, which could have also read, "OUR TEAM IS FUCKING AWESOME AND YOUR TEAM BLOWS DONKEY DICK."

“Damn drunken kraut eaters,” Reds fans are probably thinking. “I'd keep an eye on those punks.”

But we mean no harm. We just want to have a good time. Let off some steam. Soak in a rare moment of Brewers success. Sure, the Packers have won the Super Bowl twice in our lifetime. The first time was in 1997 on a night when we were all together at my parents’ house for a huge party.

When the game clock expired and the confetti flew in New Orleans we ran up and down my snow-covered street hollering with pure joy. We were too young to have been broken by the harsh realities and responsibilities of adulthood. We didn't yet feel the need for the warm embrace of sports. It was simply magic.

The Packers most recent Super Bowl title was claimed less than eight months before the Cincinnati trip. So we had that extra Super Bowl Champs swagger on top of our never-before-seen "Brewers are crushing" swagger.

When we finally make it to our seats the Frankfort Christian Center Girls Choir are singing the national anthem. My bladder is knocking on the door and I fantasize that I’m peeing on their heads and on the heads of all the people who are taking the song to heart. You know, the kind of people who couldn’t begin to imagine why I might not want to participate in that patriotic ritual, who would take offense if I remained seated, saying, "Shame on you son, stand up!" But I wouldn’t piss on the people singing along out of habit, having heard the song a million times. They can just taste the mist from my piss.

The Reds score their only run in the bottom of the second inning on a solo home run that Nyjer Morgan leaps onto the wall for and almost catches. A Reds fan might have taken it out of his glove, but it’s hard to tell from our vantage point. Afterwards some jerk has the nerve to shout down at us, “Where's T-Plush now?”

Touché, you sad, pathetic Reds fan. In his defense, it is a baseball game and our cheering is better suited for a football game.

In the second half of the game the Brewers go into "Beast Mode" and don’t look back. It’s a good old-fashioned spanking. If it were a little league game it would have been called on the slaughter rule. Josh gets into belligerent debates with a pair of eleven-year-old boys. By this time my own drunkenness makes it difficult to sit still without wanting to slouch and take a siesta. Luckily, I am brimming with excitement from the game and it is counteracting the booze, or at least manufacturing enough confidence to make me think I have my shit under control.

Somewhere in the second or third inning we get a wave of texts from different friends in Milwaukee. We made it on TV! By the seventh inning we spot an opening down in the first few rows of the upper level bleacher section and relocate the party.

UNSCRAMBLING GAME DAY – III The Ledge

Total destruction. The Brewers are walking away with the game and our unrestrained enthusiasm lets everyone know it. I take pity on the Reds fans in our vicinity. We spot other Brewers fans right below us. They are being just as rowdy. Someone in their crew is wearing one of those cowboy hats made from a cardboard case of Miller Lite.

Looking around at the top of the stadium triggers a flashback from a game I went to at Wrigley Field back in the mid-1990s. It was the glory days when the Milwaukee Public Schools Recreation Department had enough funding to offer a low-cost day trip to a Brewers-Cubs game in Chicago. I went with my family and it turned out to be quite the affair because President Bill Clinton was in attendance. There were snipers carrying large guns all over the top of Wrigley Field. I imagine them on top of Great American Ball Park, patiently waiting for us to make the wrong move.

When I’m drunk I tend to get a bit self-righteous. I become livid and start cursing under my breath when “God Bless America” comes on. Why must every sports event be punctuated with displays of overzealous patriotism? The intersection of sports, faith, militarism and nationalism sometimes makes me ashamed to even call myself a sports fan.

But what am I going to do? I love the game. I love the drama. I love the camaraderie. So I just sit there looking around at the sheep with their hands on their hearts and I wish explosive diarrhea on all of them.

There is a brief moment towards the end of the game when I feel bad for a Reds player named Stubbs. He misses a routine fly ball that starts a four-run eighth inning for the Brewers. During a pitching change Stubbs is taken out of the game and we let him have it, Jimmy K. in particular. When Stubbs hears the “boos” he looks up at us and shakes his head. But then I think, “Fuck ‘em. He gets paid good money to play a game for a living.”

One of the advantages of relocating to the ledge is that we are closer to the field, right above Ryan Braun. Each time the Brewers take the field for a defensive half- inning we give Braun the “M-V-P, M-V-P,” chant. He doesn’t acknowledge us until the third time, waving us off with his glove, as if to say, “Thanks guys, but we’re in Cincinnati. Cool it.” Two months later we are vindicated when Braun is named the National League’s Most Valuable Player.

Braun is taken out of the game for the final inning and Nyjer Morgan moves over to left field. This is perfect because we immediately give him a “Tony Gumbo” chant. He bobs his head approvingly and keeps the beat on his thigh with his glove. When he finishes warming up he throws us the ball. I panic, remembering the man who died trying to catch a ball from Texas Rangers’ center fielder Josh Hamilton, that fucking Jesus freak narc who complained about marijuana coming from the San Francisco Giants’ bleacher seats during the 2010 World Series. Anyways, T-Plush throws us a perfect ball that clears the ledge by a few rows and we go crazy when Josh catches it.

UNSCRAMBLING GAME DAY - IV Newport

When the game ends we ask an elderly usher to take our picture. From the looks of it we are all smiles. How could we not be? The Brewers won 10-1. After the usher returns the camera he says, “Congratulations on your fine season. And best of luck in the playoffs.” What a fucking guy! He is the reason I rooted for the Reds in the 2012 playoffs.

Newport, Kentucky sits just across the river from Great American Ball Park. It is recommended to us by more than one person that day. From the stadium you can see a big neon “NEWPORT” sign, so it already has that going for it. There is a haunted building or ship below the Kentucky side of the bridge and in no time we find a cluster of bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Adam and Jimmy D. take a picture in front of a pimped out blue SUV with enormous matching blue rims.

At the first bar we post out back on the crowded riverside patio. Our “BEAST MODE” shirts are attracting a lot of attention.

“That’s me bro, I’m the Beast Mode!” shouts one guy, who clearly doesn’t get the reference but offers $20 for a shirt, which is more than it cost to make them. But we make no such sale, the shirts are too precious.

At the bar I order a Kentucky Bourbon Ale and before I can pull out my debit card the bartender throws me a flirty grin.

“With that jersey babe, this one’s on me,” he says.

The good vibes keep coming. I am flattered but firmly on the heterosexual side of the spectrum. I am still grateful, especially because that beer is excellent,

expensive and comes in a fancy snifter glass. But two minutes later I have to chug

it because DJ catches me drinking with my right hand.

“Buffalo!” he shouts, followed by “This is the best night of my life!”

After a few drinks we decide it’s time to dance. There are a few swanky clubs but we go for a bar called “Arnie’s on the Levee,” which has the cheapest cover charge and the most party potential. At some point the Brewers fans from below us at the game show up and we form a Brewers corner on the dance floor. I remember

a lot of 90s rap, Rihanna, Katy Perry and sweating through my “BEAST MODE” shirt.

I don’t remember getting home that night but I did thumb something in the iPod

Touch about “That bastard racist cabbie! He fucking begged us to call him at the end of the night and then had the nerve not to pick up his phone. What a greasy pigfucker! Serves him right that I jerked him around with that Occupy Wall Street solidarity riot story. Anybody who goes around announcing their old-school Southern racism deserves to be fucked with.” 14

Getting out of town

Sunday morning is not nearly as rough as the Monday morning that Hunter S. Thompson had back in 1970 after the Kentucky Derby. If you didn’t know going into this article, I’ve been emulating his landmark piece “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” which he wrote for Scanlan’s Monthly. Do yourself a favor and Google it. Like Thompson, I wake up hungover in a hotel room in Kentucky, but my eyes aren’t swollen and I didn’t rip the night-chain off the wall.

I awake to a physical state that I like to call “the double hangover plus;” the result of two consecutive nights of drinking plus the fatigue from spending the entire second day drinking. I had a handful of those in college. Spring Jam 2005 comes to mind. The rest escape me, but I guess that’s kind of the point.

We have a good reason to break up the drive home in half; the Packers are playing the Carolina Panthers at 1 pm. We leave the hotel without even knowing where we are going to stop. But that’s what smartphones are for, right? After a series of texts and calls the two convoys end up at different places. The other crew is set on a Buffalo Wild Wings in downtown Indianapolis, while we want to drive farther so as to not worry about the traffic after the Indianapolis Colts home game ends, which is happening at the same time as the Packers game.

Our crew ends up at a locally owned sports bar in West Lafayette, Indiana, home of Purdue University. It is the kind of scene that foreigners might think of when they picture the USA; a mostly overweight crowd watching American football, eating fried food, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. It has something like thirty or forty TVs, all HD. To our surprise, there are more Chicago Bears fans than Colts fans, but the waitresses are all sporting Colts jerseys. A few Packers fans are scattered around the bar but we are in no condition to high five and cheer with them.

The only two black guys there happen to be New Orleans Saints fans and one of them is the loudest person in the bar. He makes up for our glaring lack of enthusiasm and I thoroughly enjoy watching him annoy Bears fans in the process. 15 At one point the Saints score a touchdown and he slaps his knee so hard he falls off his chair. Clearly, he had a few drinks. I can’t bring myself to soldier on and keep drinking. Instead, I self medicate marijuana in the parking lot. Amanda doesn’t even make the second half of the game and naps in the back of the car. While we suffer for our sins the Brewers take care of the Reds once again, sweeping the series and chopping the "magic number" down to four.

By the time we pass Chicago it is dark and raining. That night, for the first time in my life, I see a car engulfed in flames. It is a fresh accident on the opposite side of I-94 just beyond the city limits.

The burning car looks like something out of a movie. I don’t know if it’s because I’m high or hungover or both, but I see the ball of orange steel in slow motion, and it still plays that way in my mind; an eerie bookend to an otherwise triumphant trip.

Epilogue

Two weeks after Cincinnati the Brewers win the division and stride confidently into the playoffs. They dramatically defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 5 of the NLDS. But the Brewers lose the National League Pennant to the St. Louis Cardinals, who go on to beat the Texas Rangers and win the 2011 World Series.

Occupy Wall Street explodes after that weekend and spawns an Occupy Movement, mobilizing frustrated people all over North America. The crooks running the big banks and Wall Street have received no serious punishment.

However, I got a 10-Day Free Trial of the MLB At Bat ’12 App and MLB.tv thanks to Bank of America, which I used to listen to and watch the end of the Brewers season. So there is that.

ENDNOTES

1. That was during Target Field’s opening season. Local voters in

Minneapolis had vehemently opposed the use of public funds to build the stadium for 25 years but the Twins persistent owner finally got his way.

2. Before becoming a professional baseball player Nyjer Morgan was a

high school dropout and junior hockey player. He amassed a dedicated following on Twitter during the Brewers 2011 season due to his cocky, entertaining comments. When Manager Ron Roenicke was asked if he could calm Morgan down he replied, “Absolutely not, he’s a hockey player in spikes.”

3. A cigar rolled with cheap Mexican weed, a Milwaukee icon and a relic

of my youth.

4. A tube full of five or six beers.

5. Milwaukee County Stadium, 1953 to 2000. A gorgeous place to watch a

ballgame and the birthplace of the Famous Sausage Race.

6. Miller Park, opened in 2001. Three workers died as a result of a crane

accident during the construction of the stadium.

7. Home runs/stolen bases.

8. In addition to the “Beast Mode” gesture Nyger Morgan (aka “Tony

Plush” or “T-Plush”) had his own; one arm on top of the other

(perpendicular) forming a “T.”

9.

The rule stipulates that someone can only call “Buffalo” once the

cup/can/bottle hits the other persons lips.

10. Home of the Green Bay Packers, the greatest team in American

football. Green Bay is also the smallest town in North America with a professional sports franchise. They used to play two or three games of their home schedule at Milwaukee County Stadium, but stopped in 1994.

11. In 2008 I had a wild, blacked out St. Patty's Day in Louisville, where

the bars are open until 4pm as opposed to 2am in Fort Wright/Cincinnati.

12. To date I've been to strip clubs in Atlanta, Minneapolis, Milwaukee

and Chicago.

13. The long story involves “borrowing” my mother’s slot-machine

winnings for a private dance.

14. There was also something in my iPod Touch Notes about Dupree

Fletcher, the greatest high school basketball player from Milwaukee (in our lifetime) who didn’t play substantial college or any professional ball.

And something else about rummaging through the garbage at 4am for a chili fork.

15. The Bears were playing the Saints that Sunday.