Words: Brent Rosen Photos: Thomas Lucas
Friday July 18, 2014: 7:24 a.m.
I lie awake through two titters of the iPhone alarm before gaining awareness of my
hangover. Snooze button once, twice, three times, until 24 minutes becomes the limit I
can hold out before going to the bathroom. I slap at the wall until the bathroom light
turns on and get a good, painful look at myself in the mirror through eyes so dry they're
stuck half shut. Lifting the toilet seat I realize my hand is stamped in two places and I'm
wearing a hunting-vest orange wristband. I hear a snippet of a Talking Heads song in
my mind and I have to ask myself, "how did I get here?"
Thursday July 17, 2014: 6:55 p.m.
I walked into Riverwalk Stadium flanked by Katie Vega and Thomas "Bama Bear"
Lucas, ready to find out why Thirsty Thursdays at Riverwalk Stadium seemed to have
the liveliest singles scene of anywhere in Montgomery. I had been to a Biscuits game
on a Thirsty Thursday a few months before and could not get over all of the young,
good looking, clearly single people mingling about throughout the game. I had always
wondered where all of the young people in Montgomery went, and that night I found
them. I made a mental note to come back and investigate further. I'd been putting it off
ever since. Tonight was finally the night. I was out to write "Getting Lucky at a Montgomery Biscuits Game: A Field Guide," influenced by nothing more than some classic naturalist literature I'd purchased used on amazon.com, instinct, and pre-game whiskey from Central. Katie was there to make it less awkward when I walked up to women and asked them if they were at the Biscuits game because they were looking to get laid, and Bama Bear was there to take pictures. If the previous few sentences created the impression that this
was a well thought out, highly-planned bit of newspapering, please think again.
It's when you walk through the gate on Tallapoosa St. and the usher takes your ticket
and directs you to the "age verification" table with the hunting-vest orange wristbands
that you realize something more than baseball is happening here. Normally, someone
checks your Id, if at all, at point of sale. That step had been removed. I sensed the
Biscuits were ready for a borderline drinking-age crowd and high-volume liquor sales.
Encouraged, we pressed forward.
A few $2 dollar beers and a bag of Houston's peanuts later, we found seats along the
first base line and caught a few innings of Biscuits versus Jackson Generals before
going to work. Main memories: all white baseball players look the same, and all have
the same goofy grin. I thought Ketel Marte name was pronounced like "Ketel One," and
Katie disagreed. Someone hit a home run and it bounced really, really high off of the
concrete outfield wall, over a railing, and possibly onto the train tracks behind the
stadium. For about half an inning. I sat rapt as Bama Bear told me about how he
recruits models for his personal photography. I wondered if a baseball could derail a train. I noticed that Ketel Marte had almost no plate discipline and related to Katie and
Bama the old baseball adage that Dominican players swing at everything because "you
can't walk off the island," an idea that seems highly stereotypical but also likely to be the
God's honest truth. You know, we watched baseball.
Thursday July 17, 2014: 8:03 p.m.
Youths began trickling in. The bar along the first-base line at Riverwalk Stadium had a
surprisingly strong draft beer selection, but we ordered Budweiser anyway. I decided to
get all of my interview anxiety out of the way first, and scanned the bar for the most
intimidating person I could find. I saw a group of tough looking guys wearing "Plug
Uglies" biker vests and bandanas and decided the guy who looks like their leader was
the place to start.
I walked up to the big, red-bearded guy, introduced myself and asked, "so, tell me about
your gang, the Plug Uglies." The man introduced himself as Bob McGough and
explained the "gang" was a group of music fans and supporters who helped bands go
on tour by setting up gigs at local venues and then offering up couches or spare rooms
for bands to crash. McGough explained the chapter got together at least a couple times
a month, and that they chose to come to the Biscuits game because "we like to drink
beer and the beer is cheap here."
Although not the intimidating biker I'd expected, McGough and I made a connection. I
jumped right in, asking the first of what would be many variants of the same question:
"so, how is the singles scene here? Is this a good place to, you know, meet people?"
McGough started laughing, joined by some of the other Uglies who'd been
eavesdropping a few feet away. "We're not really your mainstream crowd," McGough
explained. "We go to Aviator after Biscuits games, but if we go out normally it's to Head
on the Door or GT South. The sort of girls we're interested in don't really hang out here."
Another curve ball from McGough -- not one second of this interview had gone the way
I'd expected. We talked a few minutes more about McGough's work on heavy metal fan
zines and GT South's board game night before I had to excuse myself to look for
someone more conventionally single and ready to mingle.
I rewarded the team for our first successful interview with a round of drinks, happy to
have met someone genuinely interesting even if McGough and the Uglies did not move
the intended narrative forward an inch. It was time to get serious. I switched to the
Budweiser of whiskey -- Jack Daniels -- and joined Katie as she smoked outside of the
stadium. On the way out, an usher stamped my hand.
Thursday July 17, 2014: 8:55 p.m.
I conduct over one dozen interviews. Because of the somewhat suggestive nature of my
questioning, I agreed to use no real names. I approached a group of about eight young,
double-fisted beer drinkers and asked them "why does Riverwalk Stadium feel so much
like a college bar?" One of the men responded, "College? This might be a high school
bar," as he looked at an admittedly youngish group of girls walking by on the way to their seats. Changing angles, I asked, "If not for girls, then why do you come to
Riverwalk Stadium?" He answered, "there's two dollar beer, and the social aspect of it.
You know that people you know are going to be here. I know my friends will be here.
People you get to bump into once a week." I was hoping for sex-crazed, or at least
fevered, but again relative wholesomeness reared its mundane head.
Slowly, interview after interview, a theme emerged. I approached a tall blonde girl who
I'd watched prowl the catwalk between the concession stands and the seating like it was
the aisle of a grocery store and asked her what brought her to the Biscuits game. She
responded, "to get us something to do. There's nothing to do in Montgomery. The
Biscuits are the place to go, to meet up, to have a good time." She further informed me
she attended AUM, was into cosmetology, and that the best part of the Biscuits game
was "seeing all the faces." She was but one example: again and again, interviewees
touched on the theme of "there's not much to do in Montgomery but go to Biscuits
games," as if Riverwalk Stadium was an oasis in the otherwise fun-free desert of
I pulled Katie, who is significantly younger than I am, aside and asked her why the
young people of Montgomery think there is so little to do. Katie explained Montgomery,
especially for young people, isn't so much boring as it is controlled. The restaurants and
bars of this town are full of prying eyes and gossipy old twits ready to report
"inappropriate" behavior to your mother, your friends, or your co-workers. Many young
Montgomerians, Katie continued, still live with their parents, and many of their parents
live in East Montgomery -- an area constructed for the purpose of smoothing
spontaneity. Katie then asked me "has Montgomery ever felt small to you?" "Of course,"
I responded. Katie took a sip from her drink, letting me think about that for a minute,
then asked me to imagine how small Montgomery must feel for someone fresh out of
college and living with their parents in Pike Road.
With that assist from Katie, it dawned on me that Biscuits games are the best thing
going in Montgomery on Thursday night because it is one place where young
Montgomery can legitimately expose itself to the possibility of adventure. The game's
atmosphere felt so familiar because I'd lived it when I was on the cusp of adulthood but
still living with my parents, going to events like county fairs and music festivals and my
first few weddings. I remember hanging out in the shadows just beyond the lights,
reaping the fruits of no adult supervision. You never knew who you'd meet on nights like
that, where those nights might take you, what lies you'd have to tell in the morning. On
those nights, you knew the taste of freedom.
For young people in Montgomery, bound by social convention and its many enforcers,
freedom is in short supply. Biscuits games provide something nowhere else in
Montgomery can: a place where young Montgomery is free to get loose. It's a place
where eyes on the field means no eyes on you. It's a place where only the batters have
to worry about getting hit in the face with fastballs for violating old-fashioned, unwritten
rules. Riverwalk Stadium on Thirsty Thursday isn't about getting lucky, but the possibility
of getting lucky, and that's enough.
I wanted to tell the blonde on the catwalk that it gets better, that as you age and gain independence the unwritten rules that constrain your life will fall away if you let them. But for now, she and her friends at the Biscuits game are still too young to realize only umpires enforce the rules, and everyone hates umpires.
Thursday July 17, 2014: 9:25 p.m.
We remembered that Central's valet service ended at 10:00 and headed for the gates. I thought we'd left a few minutes too early, but Katie thought the valet was hot and didn't want him to have to wait around all night. I walked out of the stadium toward Central holding my last Jack Daniels because I'm not too old to enjoy a taste of freedom myself, and on the way out the usher doubled me up on hand stamps. After Katie dropped me at home I realized the only thing I'd eaten that night was a bag of peanuts, putting my whiskey to solid food ratio well into the danger zone. My stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the morning was going to be tomorrow. I pulled some leftovers out of the fridge and poured a nightcap, then popped on the internet. I learned the Jackson Generals were from Jackson, Tennessee, not Jackson, Mississippi, and also that the Biscuits lost 8-4. As I drifted off to sleep, I wondered if it was really necessary for the Biscuits to keep score.