Foul Territory: Unreal goes outside the lines during All-Star Week

Hard to believe, but Unreal was actually issued full-access press credentials to All-Star Week. With a foot in the proverbial door, we were pumped to spend five days busting Bud Selig's chops, offering pitching tips to President Obama and asking Ryan Franklin about that dead animal strapped to his chin.

Alas, the Cardinals know us too well. Two days before the festivities kicked off, we were informed that our behind-the-scenes passes had been — gasp! — revoked. The reason: RFT published the home addresses of a few past and present Cardinal greats in our spiffy Riverfront Times Guide to All-Star Week.

In protest, Unreal pointed out that the information is public record and easily accessible on St. Louis County's website. The Redbirds' media-relations honcho replied that we had made it "too easy," presumably for potential stalkers and gawkers. And besides, he added, RFT has a history of "misbehavior" when it comes to these kinds of things.

Unreal's view from the stands.
Unreal's view from the stands.
Snipers on Busch Stadium's roof.
Snipers on Busch Stadium's roof.

"You should have asked our permission," was his final retort. Oh yeah, simmered Unreal, maybe the club should have consulted us before signing Khalil freakin' Greene.

After the aforementioned door to baseball paradise was slammed in our face, it dawned on us: We don't need no stinkin' press credentials. Roughly a quarter million people were expected to visit downtown during All-Star Week, and come Hell or high water, Unreal would be among them, Budweiser in one hand, a digital camera in the other.

In the end, Unreal did manage to swing a pair of tickets to the midsummer classic, but most of our time was spent in, ahem, foul territory. We attempted to crash nearly every event in town. We staggered into every dive between Laclede's Landing and Busch Stadium and then sipped cocktails at the swankiest clubs in town. If anyone was an All-Star last week, it was Unreal's liver. Somehow we managed to keep a running diary, the highlights of which are transcribed below.

Friday, July 10 — 8:47 a.m.
We just ran over two small children and fended off a Little League mom with a tire iron in order to get a parking spot within two blocks of America's Center. The gates to Major League Baseball's All-Star FanFest open in about fifteen minutes, and Unreal is itching to be first inside.

As we head toward the entrance on Washington Avenue, we spy a slight, bearded black man in a white Ozzie Smith jersey. He's flanked by a phalanx of big, burly security guards. He doesn't have to do a back flip for us to figure out that it's the Wizard himself. We snap a picture (those bodyguards are huge!) and ponder the fact that both Ozzie and paparazzi are spelled with two Z's. Coincidence? We think not.

Friday, July 10 — 9:35 a.m.
We work our way inside just in time to see the FanFest turnstiles open and a stampede of fans clad in Cardinal red clamoring into baseball's equivalent of a three-ring circus.

There's memorabilia for sale at ridiculous prices, such as a Milwaukee Brewers league championship ring for $557. There's an autograph at every turn. There's enough merchandising, product placement and advertising that Unreal could have sworn we felt our wallet lighten without it ever leaving our pocket.

Our favorite feature, though, is the photo opportunities. There's a place where fans can climb a makeshift outfield wall and pose like they're making a home run-robbing catch. This leads to a plump, middle-aged lady struggling to make it up the rungs. She falls down. The exhibit's helpers hoist her up from behind while she reaches over the wall with her glove and says, "Cheese." A Web Gem if Unreal has ever seen one.

Saturday, July 11 — 7:15 p.m.
Sitting beneath the Arch and awaiting the arrival of Sheryl Crow. It's so humid the New Yorkers are all sweating through their Derek Jeter T-shirt jerseys. Nearly 50,000 people are expected to attend. Roughly half of these appear to be hoosiers with mullets. Or, as the female version of the coif is known, femullets.

Saturday, July 11 — 8:05 p.m.
Crow strides out onstage wearing blue jeans, a black tank top and enough green eye shadow to earn a supporting role on The Drew Carey Show. Everyone roars when she proudly states she was born in "Kennett, Mizz-urr-ah." Then, like a good Mizz-urr-ah girl, she makes an InBev joke and proclaims, "I gots to have my Bud Light."

Suddenly, the real reason Crow was picked to perform dawns on Unreal: She is the Bud Light of music. Not much flavor and a little watered down, but with enough "drinkability" to appeal to most everyone.

Saturday, July 11 — 10:12 p.m.
Laclede's Landing is billing itself as "Baseball Heaven," but after the Crow concert, the only addition to the Landing's usual debauched brand of charm is ten times as many people. Outside one bar, a trampoline is being wildly enjoyed by a bouncing congregation of soon-to-be-puking fraternity brothers. Heavenly, indeed.

Everywhere, it seems, a makeshift bar has been set up on the street. On one corner, a group of college-aged girls are swilling beer from large plastic pitchers. Across the street, a trio of St. Louis police officers observes the rowdy scene with complete indifference. One officer informs Unreal that the force received orders to turn a blind eye toward public drinking over the weekend. The out-of-towners love it.

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