MLS road trip offers chance for free entertainment
Posted: Wednesday May 19, 2004 2:19AM; Updated: Wednesday May 19, 2004 2:20AM
Kansas City Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad returns for another season contributing to SI.com.
The month of June is fast approaching, and when I glance upon our slate of upcoming games, I notice that my Kansas City Wizards and I are on the road every weekend of this glorious 30-day block.
Not only does that portend fast food and frequent-flier miles, it also means having to leave the comforts of home, drive to the airport three hours before take-off, dress up as a walking billboard, and sit in an uncomfortable seat.
It's a hassle. A hassle I can only get by traveling from one terminal to the next, drifting through the sea of faceless anonymity, asking myself if we are really in Dallas or Chicago or just some netherworld where other patrons of time wait before they can go home.
Typically I use this allotted space to subject you to my Major League Soccer banter, but today, despite the pleas of my editor, I'm going to shake the debauchery of yore and start anew -- a new plan, a new motif and a new delivery for an altogether undiscussed aspect of MLS life. An aspect that is synonymous with layovers and large gatherings; in fact, I consider it to be a hobby of mine: People watching.
Many a thing can be gleaned from scrutinizing our fellow species: Social interaction, body language, clothing preferences and the opportunity to witness a slice of Americana. But what sets it apart from all my other pastimes is its ability to hold my attention over a long period of time. (I'll pause here a moment and give you a chance to think I have Attention Deficit Disorder).
To put it simply, people watching is entertainment ... living, breathing entertainment. No popcorn necessary, no dimmed lights, no must-see TV -- just a simple occurrence of ordinary people doing ordinary things.
Oh, the maniacal fun I enjoy while peering through my retinal telescope.
I can be the chief of the fashion police (what city I'm in is in parentheses):
"I can't believe she's wearing that. Is that legal?" (Newark, N.J.)
"Penny loafers! That's a minimum of two years in a low-level security prison." (Columbus, Ohio)
"Denim-on-denim alert. Sir, I'm going to have you come down to the station and answer some questions." (Dallas, Texas)
"Perhaps I'm out of my jurisdiction, but do they make shoehorns for jeans?" (Los Angeles, California)
Or the weight trainer/diet guru:
"Ixnay the Unkinday Onutsday." (Boston, Mass.)
"Uh, excuse me. Drop down and give me 20!" (Here's something to chew on: people actually pay other people to tell them to do this.) (Washington, D.C.)
"You know Ronald McDonald, four out of every five doctors agree that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. Wait, they're selling Big Macs for 99 cents? I'll take two, please." (Chicago, Ill.)
Or I can sniff out the latest trends:
"I knew long, unkempt sideburns were in." (Denver, Colo.)
"Velcro means debonair in my language." (San Jose, Calif.)
"I don't think anything complements a pair of shoes and shorts more than striped socks." (Los Angeles)
And it provides me the possibility of watching my pet peeves unfold. I'll give you the top three:
1. People who refuse to get off their cell phones once they get to the front of the line and are being helped by an employee. (Any city I visit.)
2. People who like to stop in the middle of a thoroughfare for no reason. Though I think this is quite funny when I'm watching from afar. (Any airport, mall, sporting event, etc. in the country.)
3. Airline cattle calls. "Please mooove on up to the front of the line if you have an 'A' ticket." Of course, there is always that person with a 'D' ticket who is standing in front waiting for their turn, which leads us back to pet peeve No. 2. Also, people with the lower-letter tickets need to accept the fact they are sitting in a middle seat, near the back, with no space for their carry-on, where the passenger on the aisle likes to sleep and the passenger next to the window has no bladder control. Should have got off the cell phone, moved from the center of foot traffic and checked in earlier! (Any city served by Southwest.)
Don't look at me like that. I know you do it, too. Our brains thrive on the "compare and contrast" theory. Let's take for instance what the populace is thinking when I walk by:
"Is that Brad Pitt?"
"I wouldn't mind making him my whipping boy."
I'm sorry ... what they actually say (Kansas City, Mo.):
"What team is that guy on?"
"What college is that?"
"Hmm, never heard of ... is that a rainbow coming out of the ball on their shirt? Oh, so he plays for that team."
I don't know why I judge; it's not like I'm lights-out, drop-dead, put-me-on-a-billboard beautiful. Nor am I perfect or well dressed. But when we travel, I'm in airports, on planes, at random restaurants with local town folk for hours on end, what else should I do as I take in the scenery? Be nice?
Tune in next time as I conclude this exciting topic with interviews with the random people I watch. Until then, take a look around and enjoy. It's free entertainment.
It's free I said,