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Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008

Foul Balls and Wayward Favres

Jim Cryns on Sports

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  It's been a few weeks since Brett Favre found a new home with the Jets. All I can say is God-speed, Brett Favre. The dust has more or less settled in Wisconsin after goofballs burned Favre merchandise like petulant children who didn't get ice cream for dinner. Others acted like Favre actually knew who they were and took it personally when he moved on. The sad fact is Favre probably wouldn't urinate on them if they were on fire. So, folks can go back to their mundane lives forced to conjure up another image for their vicarious fulfillment. Michael Vick could use a bit of your excess love. Pete Rose would dig some snuggle time.

  So Favre decided to extend his playing career. Good for him.

  After all, it's not like Lambeau isn't going to sell out anymore just because Brett moved to New York. Aaron Rodgers, whether you perceive him as good, bad or indifferent for the future of the franchise, has been assigned the Herculean task of keeping the franchise above the water in Green Bay. Rodgers has done an admirable job dealing with all the crap Favre and the Packers heaped upon him. A lot of guys with less intestinal fortitude would have been dragged under the surf. Only God knows how he's going to perform in the pocket, and he's not talking. It's certain Rodgers performed with more class amid adversity than either Favre or the Packers during the nauseating nonsense each side had the temerity to refer to as negotiations.

  My suggestion is to keep the merchandise on which you spent your hard-earned money. The jerseys with number 4, the bobblehead Favre on your mantle, your ridiculous Favre wash towels above the commode. Enjoy the memories this kid from Mississippi brought your way, and get a life.

  Where have all the balls gone?

  A couple of months ago during Brewers batting practice, a line drive came within a couple of inches of Ben Sheets' head where he was engaged in conversation, probably talking about monster trucks or a new form of fertilizer. From where I was standing I cringed and was sure the ball would lodge itself in Sheets' right temple. Fortunately the ball had the velocity of a Jeff Suppan fastball and dropped just short. Errant balls are part of the game in baseball and as a fan you'd be well-served to keep your eyes open, even if Sheets had not. .

  It's been estimated 30 foul balls are popped into the stands on an average each Major League game. Behind the screen jobs, hooking blasts to left, slicing balls into the upper deck in right field, lasers above the dugout. Doesn't matter how they get there, it's a souvenir for the crowd. Once a ball is launched into foul territory, it's a balls-out war. Elbows start flying, big belly's move into strategic vantage points, beers are spilled, children are left to fend for themselves. Grown men and women grope, claw and muscle their way toward the ball like they would during a red-light sale at K-Mart. Almost everyone does it, as though the ball-chasing gene was entrenched in our DNA.

  f 30 balls are hit into the stands with an average of 30,000 fans, that means about one in every 1000 fans gets a ball.

  Some nerd with too much time on his hands tabulated 120,946 foul balls and home runs during the 2005 season made it into the hands of a fan. That year 74,915,268 fans paid to see a game which meant 1 in every 619 fans end up with a ball.

  Most people gravitate to the foul balls like a baseball player to chew. Its become a game within a game. Television cameras follow the ball, players often watch where it lands, and fans salivate like Pavlov's dogs as they arcs towards the stands. I don't think you can keep a football in the stands of an NFL game, and in the NBA they retrieve that ball faster than a Tennessee Titan fan can grab his teeth out of a glass on the kitchen table.

  In San Francisco, the fools, I mean fans, get on boats with nets and scuba gear to snare a ball hit over the right field confines. At Wrigley Field people take up residence on Addison Avenue in hopes some player jacks the ball over the stands. It's great entertainment. These guys didn't even pay to see the game and they end up with a ball. I confess I love a foul ball as much as the next guy. On the rare occasion a ball makes its way into the press box at Miller Park, the ball is usually tossed into the eager mitt or hands of a kid below.

  At the old County Stadium a ball landed squarely in my empty seat as I went for a round of beers. I grabbed a couple of fouls in the old loge at County Stadium, edging out the paw of Bob Uecker. I can't recall if I ever copped a ball at Wrigley Field as a kid, but I remember my little brother tossing a ball back to a player after the player was kind enough to loft one up to my brother. My brother, only five at the time, thought it was a game of catch. With amusement, the player tossed the ball once again into my brother's hands. This time, my older brother made sure it didn't go back.

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