"Okay, how about this," a guy was saying to my friends outside Fenway Park Tuesday. "Will you guys take $400 for the pair?"
A complete stranger had just offered two of my friends $400 for a pair of bleacher seats to Game 3 of the World Series. Row 37 of the bleachers, for that matter. About 500 feet from home plate. Four hundred dollars.
You know what you could do with $400? You could buy about 80 medium-sized pizzas--enough late night snack food to last a semester.
You could purchase all your textbooks for a year; well, at least for a semester. Think of how much knowledge, how much wisdom would be contained in those books.
If you worked it right, you could even buy a plane ticket to Europe (one-way) and have a little spending money left over. See the Continent, the cradle of Western Civilization. Think of all the wonderful museums you could visit, all the interesting and exotic people you could meet over there.
For that matter, you could purchase 100 bleacher tickets at Fenway Park for regular-season games. You and 99 of your closest friends could have an old-fashioned bleacher bash Or, alternatively, you and your closest friend could attend 50 regular-season games--well over half the home games in an entire season.
Four hundred dollars.
That's a helluva lot of money to pay for two invitations to a non-exclusive gathering of 33,895, to spend three hours squinting at action taking place over 150 yards away.
A gathering where you're as likely as not to get soaked with beer, where you might end up sitting behind three huge guys smoking pot, where many of your fellow fans' idea of a good time is doing The Wave--alone.
This was the choice my friends were presented with. And when they told me about the offer, I started wondering: what would I have done in that situation?
If I had had two tickets to the Series--the pinnacle of the baseball season and thus, to the serious baseball fan, the high point of the entire year--would I have sold them for $400?
I considered the fact that the game was telecast live, that in the cozy confines of my common room I could watch the game, with a case of beer in the fridge and no one around to card me when I reached for a can.
And I thought about the isolation of the fan in the bleachers. At home, Joe Garagiola and Vin Scully were always ready to explain what really happened, always there with the injury report or the illuminating pre-game interview.
I considered, too, that my friends had waited in line for nine hours to buy the tickets. But for nine hours of work, $200 each seemed like more than ample compensation. Last time I looked, there weren't many part-time jobs at Harvard that paid $22 an hour.
But in the end, I decided that despite all those things--despite the fact that 98 out of 100 people-on-the-street probably would have taken the money and run--I wouldn't have accepted the offer.
That's what my friends decided, too. And even though the game turned out to be dreary and ignoble, with the Red Sox losing, 7-1, my friends didn't have any regrets about what they did.
All of which says a lot, I think, about the nature of the true baseball fan and the magic of the World Series.
Or about the idiocy of my friends and me.
Four hundred dollars.