You, reader, may well have been to a baseball game at least once in your life. And you, reader, may well have also bought tickets for a home opener. Doing such a thing in your United States of America or Rob Ford’s Toronto, is usually a matter of being next to an Internet-enabled computing machine, going to the team’s Web site, being redirected to some sort of page operated by the Master of Tickets, and doing the do with your credit card and a printer.
For a Mexican home opener, or partido inaugural should you feel inclined to use the local phrase, things can be done that way, but only if you are a) the owner of a credit card, and b) said credit card is from a Mexican bank. Many people are not owners of credit cards. I am not the owner of a Mexican credit card. My credit card was issued by a bank in Her Majesty’s Greatest of the Britains. Thus on Monday morning, at the ungodly hour of 9.15 a.m., I awoke from my delightful slumber, drank a cup of coffee, did not shower, put on the previous day’s clothes, brushed my teeth (I’m not a complete monster), wrapped some headphones around my unkempt hair, pressed play on my iPod, and walked out onto the very streets of this Mexico City, listening to the highly enjoyable BBC Radio Five Live programme, the Danny Baker Show, intent on buying tickets for the above-mentioned partido.
My local team, the Diablos Rojos del México, play in the Mexican League; nominally Triple-A baseball. You may be aware of said Diablos because they recently sold their two best players to the Houston Astros. Having watched those two players (Leo Heras and Japhet Amador) for the past three seasons, I have a not insignificant amount of almost-parental pride that they are–fingers crossed–on the road to major league fame and fortune. (A related aside: the Diablos’ slogan this season is Únete a la Renovación–Join the Renovation–which is pretty much saying, “we lost our best players,” or, possibly, “come help us put up some drywall.”)
The home opener each season is a curious thing. A home and home one-game deal (with a travel day in between) versus the Tigres de Quintana Roo, who play in Cancún. This fixture is sometimes called La Guerra Civil, the Civil War. It’s probably the biggest rivalry in the Mexican League, because until 2002, Tigres also played in Mexico City. Even though the team left–first to Puebla, then to Cancún–they still have a huge amount of fans in the city, and games between the two teams are always the best-attended of the season.
I have attended the last three Diablos home openers with my friend Samuel and his family. They are Tigres fans. I am a Diablos fan. Tigres won all of those three games. I hate Tigres.
I took the subway. For part of the journey, I was stood next to a guy whose short hair partially exposed the tattoo covering his head. I could see curved lines and, near his right temple, a pyramid with an eye at the top. He had a tattoo of a child on either side of his neck. I assume they were his own children. It’d be kinda creepy if they weren’t. (This photograph of a subway car was actually taken on the return journey. I wish I’d taken a photo of his tattoos, but I also feared he might not appreciate such a thing.)
I got off at Velodromo, the station closest to the Diablos’ stadium, Foro Sol, walked across the footbridge over Viaducto, a big road that at one time was a river (the trickle that remains is inside a concrete tunnel down the middle of the road), and headed to the ticket office at the adjacent Palacio de los Deportes. That is also a sports venue, built for the 1968 Olympics (it hosted the basketball and volleyball), and a venue that very much looks, to my mind, like Bowser from Nintendo’s “Mario” games.
This is a journey I have made on a Monday in March for each of the past three years. The first year, it was plain sailing. My Spanish, while still fairly basic, was virtually non-existent that first time, and the guy behind me in the line helped me purchase my tickets. The following year, I waltzed straight up to the ticket window and bought some. Last year, though, there was, for the first time, a long queue. I waited for an hour or so, and by the time I got to a window, the only remaining tickets were for the bleachers. Because of last year’s sunburnt arms from those bleacher tickets, I got up early (like I said: nine-fifteen!), and aimed to be there for when the tickets went on sale at 11 a.m.
When I arrived just after half-ten, there was already a long line. Some of those people near the front must’ve been there for an hour already. I sighed. It was sunny. My neck was hot after a couple of minutes. But, I thought, this is something I can write about for NotGraphs. (That is to say, I’ve not done a drawing and don’t have any great ideas right now.)
In the queue, there were people wearing Diablos hats and Tigres hats. I also saw Yankees (obviously), Dodgers (of course), Angels, Cardinals, Rangers, and a ton of Red Sox hats. I saw one guy in a Royals cap, bless him. A few feet in front of me was an old timer in a bucket hat and a Padres t-shirt with HERNANDEZ 9 on the back. Apologies to you, the baseball community, but my knowledge of Padres players and their numbers is more-or-less non-existent, so I had to look on the Internet to find out who that might be. Carlos Hernández seems to be the likeliest candidate; certainly the most recent.
It was charming and cute to see people wearing their baseball merch in a ticket line. Not for an actual game. Just to buy tickets for a future game. But, this is Mexico City, and it’s a soccer town primarily. And even in that line, the most baseball-y place in the city at that moment, there was an equal number of soccer jerseys to be seen.
Perhaps the reason for the length of the queue this year, though, was the new ticket restrictions. Two tickets per person. This is an effort to try and curb scalping. It also has the effect of being really quite inconvenient for most people. I saw whole families (grandparents, parents, children) all lining up to buy two each so the lot of them can go to the game. People in the line frequently, disbelievingly, asked people who had just got tickets if it was true you could only buy two each. A couple further ahead in the queue bought tickets and joined their friends behind me (cutting in!) so they could go back and buy more.
People stepped a few paces out of the line to have a look back to see how many more people were queueing. Old men queued for longer than old men should be expected to stand in the sun. A guy under an umbrella near the line sold unappetising-looking tacos, five for 20 pesos. The jacarandas were pretty. A young beautiful woman with tickets walked back past the line, and like dominos falling, all male heads turned to look at her arse. I had an itch on my ear, but I’d been on the Metro, my hand had gripped the filthy pole in the subway car. There was no way I would be touching an orifice after my hands had touched something on the Mexico City Metro.
I got a nervous feeling in my stomach. What if they had no tickets by the time I get to the front. I calmed myself by thinking that even if my preferred 70-peso tickets (US$5.30) in the seats behind the infield were sold out, I could still sit in the 10-peso (US$0.75) bleachers again. It’s not boredom or the feeling of wasting time that does me in: I just want to exhale and know that I have the tickets in my possession. And also, to get back home and poop.
The queue, though, was moving along relatively swiftly. The whole two-ticket limit thing cut down on the time each person was spending at a window. Plus, we were all cash customers: no waiting around for PINs, receipts, signatures. I got close. A fella with a walkie-talkie told me to go to window 5.
As if to give me something to write about, the guy in front of me asked for three tickets, and got annoyed and questioned why he could only buy two. People at the windows to my left and right came, purchased tickets, and left. I stood behind this guy, my eyes drilling holes through his Braves cap, burning through his hair and flesh, straight into his brain until he collapsed, gurgled, and died in front of me. I stepped over his carcass, and politely asked for two tickets. The woman’s colleague distracted her as she had my 200-peso note in her hand. (My brain: what if she forgets that that is my money? What if, during these moments where she’s chatting to a co-worker, all of the tickets get sold at the other windows?). She gave me my change and two tickets. I walked past the suckers who were still queueing, and went home. I’d only been queueing for an hour. Not too shabby at all. An hour in the sunshine, an hour not sat in front of a computer, was a positive spin I was willing to make.