Yesterday was the home opener for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. I was at work, but the company was nice enough to livestream the home opener so you can watch from your desk.
When I was young, significant games like the home opener and series games had established pageantry. First, the Clydesdales came out and trotted around the stadium to the tune of the Budweiser jingle.
They still do this, only in my day I believe Auggie Busch was perched on top of the wagon. I don't think Augustus the Fourth ever has, even before the family sold the brewery to the Belgians.
Then, shortstop Ozzie Smith would do a back flip.
One year his little son did it. Somehow, I can't find that video. (However, I did find this link, which is even better. If you read to the end you'll feel like you were there and learn about compound sentences.)
Ozzie is too old for the flip now, but never too old to show up at the ballpark for significant games, so I believe he either threw or caught the first pitch Monday. I admit, I wasn't playing close attention, since I was also trying to work at the same time. I'm afraid I missed the Clydesdales completely.
I glanced at the screen when I heard " ... release a bald eagle into the stadium."
"Huh?" I thought. "Since when do we do that? I don't know if I like that. Sounds like the bald eagles are trying to muscle out the Clydesdales."
Because I wasn't paying attention, and because I am so old I still consider bald eagles endangered, I thought they were releasing ... I don't know ... a previously captive bald eagle back into the wild? A test-tube eagle? Like I said, I wasn't focused, and I didn't know eagles haven't been endangered since 2007.
I looked up to see a hesitant man open the eagle kennel, and the bird flew out. "Fly eagle, fly!" I thought, "Be free." I looked back to my work.
After a minute, I glanced back, and the eagle was still flying in circles around the stadium. I remembered the time a bird was trapped in my garage, and the ballpark CROWD was SCREAMING, and well, I forgot all about work in my concern for this panicked eagle who was too afraid to be free. Literally trapped in a cycle of fear.
And it went oooooon. Five minutes of this bird circling the stadium. I expected an announcer to break in with "Ho, they got their money's worth outta this bird, Mike!" (Give this eagle a cold frosty Busch.)
After an eternity the bird swooped down to the previously unseen Eagle Wrangler, landed on the man's shoulder, and had a well-deserved bit of mackerel or something. It turned out this particular bald eagle was not a Free Willy bird but a Fredbird, an entertainment bird, a paid attention and mackerel hungry bird. You just don't expect a bald eagle to be a trained monkey flying in circles for food. It's beneath them. It's like those people who make clothing out of American flags. I know it's just a symbol, but it's off-putting to see a national symbol performing like that.
As it turns out, this was not the first year they've brought out the trained eagle. Here's a video from 2008 with a much shorter flight, probably from the same bird before he became an attention junkie. (True attention junkie? Check out the tiger cameo at the end.)