Every year my friend John Rosengren comes to New York for the ASJA Conference, and every year we try to make it to a Yankees or Mets game. It’s a chance to watch some big-market baseball, but mostly we catch up and talk about writing and projects and goals and hopes.

Last night we met before the Mets game and stood in line to buy tickets. A young woman approached us and asked if it was just the two of us and when we said yes she asked if we wanted two free tickets. Her friends couldn’t make it. The seats were good, down the first base line, about 25 rows up. We accepted, but then John told a brief story about a friend of his who got arrested for trying to enter a Grateful Dead concert with a counterfeit ticket. Was this part of a big-city set-up? Was this night going to turn into Midnight Express, minus the hashish and Turkish prison?

It was all legitimate. We passed through the gates without an issue. This is actually the second time in six New York City games a stranger has gifted us with tickets. Several years ago, this time outside the old Yankee Stadium, a man gave us two after his friends didn’t show up. We must have Minnesota Nice faces that make people think, “Hey, here are two guys who won’t use my tickets as an excuse to run on the field naked or engage in drunken brawls in the stands.”

In the fifth inning, John suggested we move to the seats right behind the Mets dugout. With an announced crowd of 20,000, there were plenty of empty seats throughout the park. It felt dangerous and I figured the ushers guarded that real estate, perhaps with Tasers, definitely with attitude. Instead there was no one there and we took our new positions. John hoped to get a ball thrown to him that he could take home to his son. He got his wish when Mets first baseman Ike Davis tossed him one after the top of the sixth inning. It made up for all the summer nights Ike’s old man — former Twins closer and Minnesota punchline Ron Davis — ruined for John in the 1980s. In the seventh, a ball drifted toward us and bounced about 15 feet to my right, hopped over the arms of other fans and rolled to a stop at my feet.

First foul ball I’ve ever collected. If a child had been nearby, I would have forked it over, but I was not giving it to the twentysomething guy nearby who looked like he wanted it so he could impress his girlfriend.

In the eighth, two ushers sat behind us and the older worker told the youngster to keep anyone out of the front row who didn’t have a ticket. “We don’t want them moving down.” Too late, sir. We already did, and we already landed our souvenirs.

And the Mets won.

Now, onto this week’s links.

* The Pro Bowl might be finished. The worst of the pro all-star games, this news would disappoint, well, no one outside of Hawaii. How bad is the Pro Bowl? Think about the NFL’s popularity. The way people go nuts for the draft and minicamps and training camps, not to mention the actual games. Yet the Pro Bowl is met with complete apathy and, at times, disdain.

* Interesting story in the New York Times on the decline of sports cartoons in newspapers. On an unrelated, but still important note: Is there any chance Gary Larson ever ends his retirement and brings The Far Side back to life?

* Frank Deford had a fun excerpt in Sports Illustrated from his memoir. It details his coverage of the NBA in the 1960s, when Wilt, Russell and outrageous expense accounts ruled.

* The sports editor at the University of Florida’s student newspaper wrote a departing column that is anything but the standard farewell. It’s a remarkable story of a family tragedy and how he dealt with it.

* TV, here. Only a couple things to add this week. Why so short? Because it’s been a weird week of dealing with NFL Draft prospects. Or, at least, one prospect in particular: Iowa offensive lineman Riley Reiff. For whatever reason, he refused to deal with the local media throughout the college season and leading up to the draft. No explanation given, either. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that, let alone a kid from a town of 1,508 on the eastern side of South Dakota. Needless to say, it’s not a story we could ignore yet we had zero access to the primary player. It was weird and stressful and awkward. Here’s some chicken salad that I produced in advance of Reiff being drafted 23rd by the Detroit Lions.

* And, finally, because you know how much I love lists, a piece about peace: The United States Peace Index. Basically, it’s a lack-of-crime ranking. Among the surprises, South Dakota had the largest decline in peace since the last study. I have no explanation for that, especially since the other Dakota seemed to be generating more grizzly headlines of late, largely related to the oil boom.

  1. Jerry says:

    So you are saying that you would have been better than the couple in Texas who didn’t – or didn’t want to – notice a screaming child five feet away from them because they got the ball he wanted? Glad to hear that you have some humanity. And you always did have good hands…especially when learning to field on Grandpa’s yard.

  2. shawnfury says:

    I do have humanity, plus I wouldn’t want to suffer the Internet’s rage if the cameras had caught me. I do think it was a bit overboard with that couple. What if they had a sick kid at home who wanted a ball?

    Didn’t need great hands for this one, as Kwame probably could have gotten it. Maybe. The fielding lesson at grandpa’s was, don’t stop the ball with your face, it’s easier with your glove. Also, when you’re 7 years old, yell and make sure the “old man” in overalls playing outfield gets the relay throw in on time.

  3. Jerry says:

    Kwame being able to get might be a push. And I do remember you fielding one with your face one time…you might have been about 4 at the time. But it never slowed you down. And like you said about a year ago…grandpa knew the importance of hitting the cutoff man as well as anyone. A lesson some big leaguers could use.

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