It was the middle of the fifth inning in a game the Saints had, for all practical purposes, already won. It was unpleasantly cold, even if you’d been warming yourself with alcohol all afternoon. Midway Stadium doesn’t have the fancy heated roof lamps you enjoy at Target Field; in fact, Midway Stadium doesn’t have the fancy roofs you enjoy at Target Field. You’ve a metal bleacher and whatever’s coating your keester. Otherwise, you’re a sitting duck in the cold wind.
My wife and I weren’t in the metal bleachers, though. We were milling about in the field’s entrance tunnel, fenced in by a giant cage door like ancient beasts about to eat slaves. In our clutches, a dummy. The dummy’s shirt was pulled halfway up and his frown was emphatic. He looked in need of medical help, and was about to get the worst you could ask for …
Earlier that day …
I had this “yawn and shiver” maneuver that was pissing my wife off in the parking lot. Even as I write this in a 75-degree Lego-block townhome, I shiver as I yawn. I’m weird.
My wife and I had finished a growler of beer and a round of cheese brats when a pair of lanky Saints interns approached us.
“Would you guys like to do one of the promos tonight?” said the female. My wife pooh-poohed it mechanically.
“We’re not going inside.” They thanked us and moved on.
But … what if we did? I observed the walking masses into the entrance. The Saints final season opener at Midway was 25 minutes away, and those poor interns were getting rejected like Canadian currency in a soda machine. I looked at them, at my wife, at the grill, at the empty growler, and back at my wife.
“Let’s do it.” I ran back to the interns. The spots were open, they explained the game to us, and we accepted. I ran up, bought tickets, and brought my wife inside to watch me yawn and shiver some more.
Back in the Monster Tunnel
Beside my wife and I were an affable, fit-looking couple: our opponents. She wore a Bethel hoodie and boots with thick, rubbery high heels; his beard was luscious and his hair mussed under a ball cap. They smiled as if this wasn’t a contest. To us, their smiles made it that much more of a contest.
Here’s the rules: We were to run our floppy, burlap gurneys over to our dummies — who had been incapacitated by carpal tunnel — gauze his wrists, load him onto the gurney, and run him across a finish line. There were street cones involved, but they were insignificant.
After the Gary Rail Cats again failed to hit Saints pitcher Anthony Claggett (St. Paul won, 6-0), we were led onto the field and to our starting positions. Our dummies were laid down, and GO!
Blink, blink, blink, we won.
I mean, we scorched them. They were still situating their dummy when I ran through the toilet paper finish line ticker, but Uh-oh set in:
We didn’t just cheat in front of 5,000 people, did we?
Yes and no. It turned out, no gauze was given to either team. My wife noticed at the starting line; I made the observation immediately at the dummy. We didn’t look for it. I snatched our dummy by the face and stuffed him onto the gurney, the way a person would angrily dispose of trash. We raised him and ran back, weaving through the insignificant street cones with a level of effort not worth mentioning.
“The winners are … Frrrrrank and Kelleeeee!”
Our opposition scoured for it and lost precious seconds, and delicately handled the dummy. It all goes back to their goddamn friendly smiles, the kind of smiles that lose races. We were sent off with victory swag bags, kitted with cute little stuffed doggies and heinously bro shades.
There would be plenty more winning as the weekend wore on. We and another couple won a whole double-date woof-out night, scoring free meals at Old Country Buffet (Don’t act like you’re above it; YOU’RE NOT!) and movie passes. Meanwhile, the Saints went 3-1 on the weekend.
The wins were great, but here’s the real takeaway: if you’re ever in need of immediate medical care, call us. You might not like the way you’re loaded onto the gurney, and you not receive any actual medical care, but we’ll run your ass across a finish line.