The best seats come to those who wait

By Troy Foster 

CLEVELAND — My father always reminds me of the principle of marginal utility.

You know how it goes, right? If you give me one cookie, I get really excited. But if you give me 10 cookies, I find less utility in each individual cookie than I would have found in the original if you had just given me one. 

OK, that’s a mouthful, and maybe cookies aren’t the most appropriate analogy for our continuing narrative on baseball.

But I bring up the principle of marginal utility to preface my story about our experience at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.

This game was the 15th on our baseball road trip. We’re halfway done! I know a lot of my friends back home are jealous of what Daren and I are doing and think this is some kind of self-indulgent vacation by two jerks with unlimited time and cash (not true).

Knowing that some people might feel this way, I figure they also might be irritated by what I’m about to say. 

I didn’t really want to go to this game. In fact, when I was still outside the stadium, standing next to my Jeep as I heard the crowd roar over some exciting play inside, I yawned.

It’s a principle of marginal utility.

Daren and I had just finished interviewing some protesters outside the stadium who — in my mind — are rightfully upset over Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland mascot, for its dopey, degrading characterization of Native Americans.

After shadowing these folks for a while, we went back to our Jeep in the parking garage, cracked our cooler and enjoyed a beer while talking about everything but baseball. I didn’t care about the game.

It’s a principle of marginal utility.

The game had probably reached the third inning by the time Daren spotted The Guy. He was perched on a building at the top level of our parking garage. 

We used the zoom on “Gobbles” (that’s what we call Camera No. 2) to get a closer look. We could see that The Guy was sitting on a lawn chair, eating a banana and rocking back and forth. The Guy had used a ladder to get to the top of this building, and we were certain he had a great view of the field. We were also certain of something he didn’t have: a ticket.

Daren and I looked at each other. Before either of us said a word, we reached a telepathic agreement in the way good friends do. We were going to climb that ladder and join him.

The Guy saw us coming, and as we approached what we thought was his private hiding place, he moved toward the ladder. I expected The Guy to simultaneously grab the ladder, raise it out of our reach and raise his middle finger. But instead The Guy gave us a huge grin and motioned us to climb up.

I refer to him fondly as The Guy because he asked us not to use his name. We also agreed not to film him, and while normally I would have been horribly disappointed by this, the novelty of where we were and what we were doing erased my consternation.

It turned out The Guy wasn’t a squatter at all. He was THE GUY … as in the guy who sets off the fireworks at all the Cleveland games. 

In my opinion, he has the coolest seat in the house. We were atop a parking garage building with a broad, panoramic view of the field, not to mention all the women in section 504 and the Market Pavilion.

The Guy told us that he and Another Guy take turns sitting atop this building, switching off every other game. When Cleveland hits a home run, it’s their job to flip the switch that sends fireworks skyward over Progressive Field.

We told The Guy that we were traveling to all 30 MLB stadiums, and he invited us to sit with him for the remainder of the game (which had already reached the fourth inning).

“If you guys are up here when I send off the fireworks, it’ll be the loudest noise you’ve heard in your entire life,” The Guy said.

I believed him. He pointed to cracks in the tile roof that had been caused by noise and pressure. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be up here when the loudest noise I’d ever heard destroyed my eardrums. But something kept me. Maybe it was the novelty of sitting on cinder blocks, watching the game in a place we weren’t supposed to be. Or maybe it was that heading into the actual stadium would invoke the principle of marginal utility.

It was clear The Guy enjoyed our company, because he told us he could get in trouble for having us up there, but he never asked us to leave. We even volunteered to get out of his way.

“Nah, stay,” he said.

The Guy also does fireworks for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Browns. He clearly loved his job, and he smiled and nodded when we asked him if the pay was good. 

He told us there had been two known screw-ups since his company took over the fireworks contract. One was an accident with the switch, but the other was due to the one limitation of sitting in this spot. A substitute fireworks guy from the corporate office had sat here for one game. It just happened to be Opening Day, and The Guy told us that people cheer louder on this day than the rest. A Cleveland player hit a long, deep ball down the left-field line and the crowd went nuts. The substitute flipped the switch and fireworks went hurling into the air, signaling a home run.

The Cleveland player stopped at second base with a double.

This rooftop where The Guy sits doesn’t have an all-encompassing view, but I still think it’s the best seat in the house, and so does The Guy. Yet to avoid the same mistake as the substitute, The Guy keeps a radio next to his lawn chair to listen to the announcers when a deep ball sneaks out of his view.

There would be no home runs on this day for Cleveland as the visiting Cincinnati Reds ran away with a 5-0 victory. The only fireworks were during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which we missed while talking to a group of Americans whose heritage had been trivialized at a place called Progressive Field.

Daren and I eventually left the rooftop to preserve the mission. One game at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums probably requires that we go in each stadium, too.

As I took my seat on the first-base side in the upper deck just two rows from the very top, I looked across the field at The Guy sitting at his secret place — the best seat in the house.

Then I looked around me, sighed, and began pondering the principle of marginal utility.

(There’s more on this and our other adventures at

From Cleveland

3 Responses to “The best seats come to those who wait”

  1. […] Cold Beer, Couches & Baseball Our BaseCrawl Across America « The best seats come to those who wait […]

  2. […] understand why we sometimes take so long to get into the stadium call Troy and ask him about the principal of marginal utility. He will gladly take some time out of his busy schedule to discuss. As for the stadium itself it […]

  3. Hi, I am having a hard time subscribing to your feed. It says unsupported format. You might want to check it.

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