My dad had purchased primo seats—third row behind the Angels' dugout—and the game turned out to be a thrilling affair.
The Angels pulled out their league-leading 31st come-from-behind victory when catcher Mike Napoli hit a walk-off double in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Fortunately, that made up for the odd turn my night took the inning before.
With two men on, one out, and the Angels trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth, shortstop Erick Aybar laced a would-be triple down the right field line. It landed foul by inches.
Like any red-blooded sports fanatic, I shot out of my chair with anticipation of a great comeback, only to sink back down in crushing despair.
I joined the rest of the crowd in a collective groan and wondered aloud, “If only.” The guy sitting next to me to a slightly different approach.
He too moaned with disappointment—and then he started drumming out his frustration on my back.
The whole affair took all of half a second, but in that moment, my neighbor turned from friendly guy in the Angels Hawaiian shirt to awkward fan who was suddenly sitting too close for comfort.
Now don't get me wrong, I love sharing my enthusiasm with people sitting in my section as much as the next fan.
I often joke around with those near me, making cynical or sarcastic comments about the team, harassing opposing fans, and sharing general observations.
Even the occasional high-five is a pleasing release in moments like the one on Thursday night.
Hey, we came back to beat one of the best closers in the game; you have to share that with someone.
But what in God's name made this guy think that pounding on my right shoulder blade like a bongo was an appropriate way to vent his annoyance?
It's not like we even made some sort of fan-based relationship or anything.
Sure, we exchanged a couple of comments on the night's events. We discussed the pinch-hitting possibilities that were likely to come up late in the game, as well as the status of outfielder Juan Rivera's knee injury.
How that made him think we were bestest buddies, I'll never know.
I didn't even make eye-contact with the man—not out of some sense of disgust or anger, it's just how I handle conversation.
And yet, a few minor pleasantries somehow made this otherwise normal man decide that I shouldn't mind him beating on me like some failed masseuse.
What is it about sports that brings people together in this way?
If the doors on the elevator at work snap shut before you get there, would you ever think to turn toward the nearest suit and give him a hearty slap on the back?
Do you run up and down the halls, screaming and hugging receptionists every time you get a bump in pay grade?
Sporting events are the great uniters. They level the playing field, so to speak, and help form a bond between people of all races, religions, socio-economic statuses, and political affiliations.
When you're guy hits a home run to win the game, suddenly all 45,000 cheering fans are your closest personal friends. It's only natural to want to share in the excitement and unadulterated thrill.
All I ask is that people try hard to do so in an appropriate way.
Offering a high-five to the guy sitting next to you? Great!
Forcing a drum solo onto the nearest kid who appears non-threatening when you're team fails to come through? Well...there's probably a better way to share your feelings.
Shouting “Oh man,” for instance. Tossing a pained expression toward that same kid. Anything, really.
I'm not opposed to enjoying games with the fans around me. Heck, they're half the fun of going in the first place.
It's depressing to see shots of the crowd at Florida Marlins and Oakland A's games, stadiums so empty you can hear every chide from the few remaining bleacher bums as clear as a bell.
Raucous crowds make the game far more interesting, usually in a good way.
But as close as you might feel to someone wearing the same jersey as you, keep in mind he probably doesn't want to feel your rough, clammy hands unexpectedly pelting his body over and over again.
Remember kids, we keep our hands to ourselves.