Written exclusively for Fenway Pastoral by Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis
Going to a ballet probably wouldn’t have been my first choice for celebrating being recently named the 2009 winner of the Thomas A. Yawkey Memorial Award as Red Sox Most Valuable Player.
For one, as much as I appreciate the recognition, the tired postseason routine of doling out awards like Gold Gloves and MVPs seems so arbitrary and trite. Secondly, I’ve found that ballets and other dramatic performances of the arts often take place in old, musty theaters with cramped seating plans designed to accommodate smaller-framed folks of centuries long past. (This is especially true in an older city like Boston, but I’ll get to that in a few minutes.)
Anyway, when my wife Enza surprised me with tickets to a matinee performance of Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Opera House this past Sunday, I stoically took my ticket and hid my pained facial expressions like any slugger would after taking a hard fastball off the shoulder blade.
The day started off innocently enough. The foul weather made it especially easy to find a parking spot just off the Common right near the Opera House on Washington Street. It took us only a few minutes to walk from the car to the building.
The first sign of trouble came as we approached the large group of people bottle-necked into a chaotic hoard, awaiting entrance into the theater. Back at home, Enza had told me I should dress up since we were going to the ballet, but I took a look around and realized I was comically overdressed. I tugged at my tight, constraining bowtie and tried not to look too enviously at the other men around me who were outfitted in loose-fitting V-neck sweaters.
The line was impossibly slow-moving and the early afternoon drizzle peppered my naked scalp with cold winter rain. Having forgotten my hat, I attempted to cover my head with a Sunday edition of the Boston Herald, which did a surprisingly good job of keeping me dry while we waited. Unfortunately, holding the paper over my head exposed the right side of my body to the pointy elbow of a fur-coated socialite who clearly had no regard for anyone around her. She pegged the side of my gut so hard that she knocked the wind out of me and left me gasping for air.
This was a minor inconvenience compared to when my wife and I got to our row and I realized that I would have to sit with my knees together and angled to one side just to fit into the seat. I overheard someone beside us mention that the Opera House had recently been refurbished, but whoever was in charge of modernizing the seating plan ought to be fired. My back has been freaking killing me since Sunday and I know it was because of those seats.
Perhaps worst of all, though, was that my finely knit, specially-fitted white collared shirt was ruined after being drenched in the blood that gushed from my nose after it was hit with a slipper that one of the Sugar Plum Fairies somehow kicked off her feet amidst one of the show’s more elaborate dance numbers at the beginning of Act 2. It was at that point that I rued Enza’s propensity to seemingly always get her hands on the choicest seats for such events. This is one time when I would have gladly traded our front center orchestra seats for a spot in the second-level mezzanine.
My nosebleed did not fully subside until the end of the Russian dance–by which time I was thoroughly flustered by the commotion of having to rush up the aisle and into the men’s room in search of paper towels. The choke-hold of my double-knotted bowtie only made matters worse. Dizzied from a shortage of blood circulation to my head, I returned to my seat and did my best to ignore the subtle instrumental flaws that were evident in the orchestration of the Waltz of the Flowers. On the plus side, the footwork of the kids who played Fritz and Clara would have made Mike Lowell and Adrian Beltre blush.
Getting out of the Opera House at the end of the performance was a predictable nightmare. The heelprint marks left by the scurrying patrons will need to be buffed out of my wing tips before I can ever wear them again and I eventually wound up cutting the bowtie off my neck with a pair of scissors after trying to undo the knot for 15 minutes.
All in all, I must say I enjoyed taking a break from my offseason workout routine to do something with both seasonal and cultural relevance with my wife. This time of year, you’ll do just about anything you can think of to break the monotony of winter–even if it means getting a few bumps and bruises along the way. The Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker did a great job of taking my mind off baseball for a few hours. Then again, I do remember wondering whether Adrian Beltre would have caught that ballet slipper in his soft, soft hands before it had a chance to hit him in the nose.