Free crap and the road to self-fulfillment

By By Natalie Dicou and By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

There you are enjoying your favorite sports event from the stands. It’s a Saturday and the weather is lovely. Your team is winning and all is right in your world. And then, as you look out across the vast, green field, it hits you- reality-check style-that football is actually a really beautiful game. Not because of the ligament-shredding hits, but because it has brought 45,000 people together. And you wonder how often in life you actually get the chance to stand foot-to-foot with your fellow man and root with him in unison for a common goal. And just as you are about to weep tears of joy for humanity, you let out a primal scream.

“OH MY GOD! THE CHEERLEADERS ARE THROWING THOSE MINIATURE PLASTIC FOOTBALLS INTO THE CROWD, AND ONE IS HEADED RIGHT THIS WAY!”

You jump out of your seat, crushing children and the elderly underfoot. You lunge over a mother who is distributing Cheerios to two children. You think to yourself, “At last, it’s MY turn.” For countless games, you’ve watched others bask in the glory of catching those balls, bitterly confused about why the cheerleaders never throw them your way. Now, as you see one arcing toward you, you realize that you are willing to blindside anyone brave enough to stand between you and that ball.

It struck me that this was an issue worth examining two weekends ago at a hockey game. Sitting in front of me was a well-to-do-looking older couple that could’ve easily been two models on their way home from an Eddie Bauer shoot. They hadn’t quite reached the “brittle stage” yet, but were decades past their first youth.

Even though the game was violent-shoulders were being separated just meters away-the couple merely clapped politely as their cohorts in the bleachers screamed, “Take off his head!”

But then came time for the ceremonial throwing of the free crap, and since Hostess Ding Dongs resemble pucks, they are often thrust into the crowd between periods at hockey matches.

And out came Mr. Hyde.

With a Ding Dong in his sights, the previously well-mannered man leapt from his seat and hurled himself at the airborne plastic-wrapped snack treat. He ended up on his knees, losing out in an undignified scrum to a young boy who snatched the cream-filled cake from the old man’s wrinkled hands. When the man gingerly lowered himself back into his seat, he locked eyes with his wife, who had an expression of disgusted horror on her face.

Stricken, the woman’s eyes met mine next but darted downward, ashamed. Sitting there in her polo shirt and wool sweater accentuated by a smart-looking scarf, she must’ve been wondering what on earth the women at the country club would think.

That poor woman had just witnessed her husband fall for a common trap: He had grossly overestimated the value of a pastry simply because it was free. And because of this, he risked shattering his pelvis for a few bites of waxy chocolate.

In his heart of hearts, the man must have known that the actual retail value of a Ding Dong is around 15 cents, but because it was free, the Ding Dong had become inexplicably invaluable.

But was that all it was? A man drunken with the prospect of free crap?

No.

Sports events are some of the only times when adults are allowed to act like complete imbeciles. They get to jump up and down when their team scores without violating any social mores. They get to wrestle to the ground the guy next to them for a ball that will be deposited in the back of a closet or chewed up by the dog without protest a day later. But for that one brilliant moment, the ball will be a priceless relic to be forever cherished, a monument to the great act of the catching itself.

It’s not about the free crap-it’s about stepping out of your daily role as a responsible adult-because, seriously, how long can you keep that up? It’s about letting out the animal inside you while embarrassing your loved ones in the process.

So, in this workaday world, if you find yourself at a sporting event and something free is headed toward you-I don’t care if it’s a size XXL “Yo quiero Taco Bell” T-shirt that you would rather have “dumbass” tattooed to your forehead than wear-dive for it.

You have to behave well in the other realms of your life. You have to sit quietly for hours on end in class. You have to take conference calls.

So take a lesson from our elderly friend: Humiliate yourself in public every once in a while. Take out a 10-year-old boy. Elbow a grandma in the head Karl Malone-style. It’ll keep you young.