the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Yom Kippur, the NY Mets, and the Rally Towel

I have a rotator cuff injury on my right shoulder, and the discomfort has made me grouchy and depressed. Earlier this week, on Yom Kippur eve, I didn’t feel like going to temple, so I did the next best thing —

Yes, I went to a NY Mets game on Yom Kippur eve.

Is this sacrilegious? Of course. Even Sandy Koufax didn’t PLAY on Yom Kippur.

But in many ways, coming to CitiField and watching a terrible team eliminated from the playoffs three months ago, get routed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, was a potentially more painful experience to atone for your sins than attending a religious service in a modern, comfortable, air-conditioned synagogue.

During the endless game, the evening air caressed my skin, and my mind drifted off into deep thoughts. I thought about the Holiest day in the Jewish year.

“What is the meaning of life,” I asked myself.

I also had other, more secular questions. Like —

1) What ever happened to the Wave? Why did everyone stop doing it at sporting events? Did it run its course, like the Macarena?

2) What do outfielders think about during the game? I played in the outfield during Little League; it was boring. I frequently prayed to God that the ball didn’t come towards me, fearful I would drop the ball. I always dropped the ball. I was also scared of the ball hitting me in the head and splitting my skull open like a watermelon. Perhaps professional outfielders, standing alone, isolated from the others, also think about God. In their freshly-laundered white uniforms, they appeared as much a sign of purity as the white cloth that covered the Torah.

3) During the fifth inning, the “kissing cam” appeared on the giant screen. Couples were picked out and urged to kiss. But how do the Mets cameramen know who is a couple and who isn’t? If I went to a Mets game with my female boss, would I be obligated to give her a French kiss? Do gays and lesbians get pissed off that they are never chosen for the kissing cam at the Mets game? I hope there is a lawsuit. There should be no kissing in baseball.

Throughout the evening, the Mets Organization used all sorts of gimmicks to keep us amused during a boring game. Imagine how many more Jews would go to High Holiday services if there were trivial contests, a Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Cup mascot shlepping through the aisles, and sexy girls shooting “free” t-shirts out of scary bazooka air-guns.

During the seventh inning, a cute girl in a Mets jacket roamed into our section, trying to rev us up, even though the Mets were getting their ass kicked by the Pittsburgh Pirates. She was carrying a large pile of — what seemed to me — dish rags for the kitchen.

But they weren’t dish rags. They were “rally towels.”

“Rally towels! Rally towels!” she screamed. I’m giving away free rally towels!”

Some kids in our section screamed in excitement.

“Over here! Over here!” yelled a little boy behind me.

“How naive is youth,” I thought, as she threw a towel at the boy. AS IF the rally towels would ever help the Mets win this game.

Just then, the Rally Towel girl turned her penetrating eyes towards me. It was like she could “feel” my sarcasm in the air.

“Hey, you with the glasses?” she yelled. “Why aren’t you cheering for the Mets tonight? C’mon, let’s HEAR IT?! Let’s go Mets! Let’s go Mets! Do you want a rally towel?”

“No, thanks,” I said, suddenly wishing I had gone to temple for Yom Kippur. I was also hungry, the only one in CitiField fasting.

“Sure you want a rally towel!” she said. “You gotta have a rally towel!”

She grabbed a towel from the top of her pile and tossed it at me. Her aim was as accurate as any ace pitcher. Out of instinct, I raised by right arm to catch the towel. Memories of Little League came alive, and I was back in the outfield. It was my big chance to redeem myself for missing the ball during that big game, causing our team to lose the Playoffs.

My arm shot back. The t-shirt flew into my hand. I caught it! I was redeemed! I also threw back my shoulder, and the pain was so intense in my rotator cuff that my cry reached the infield, my vision went black, and this became the first Yom Kippur where I felt as if I met God.


  1. Yael Saar

    Oh, so sweet as always, made me laugh and made me think.
    Sending end-the-pain vibes for the shoulder, and yays for redeeming catches.

  2. Twenty Four At Heart

    You’re such a baby.
    (Sorry to laugh at you, but I can’t help it.)
    (Also, I don’t want you to be in pain. I will hug you gently when you get back to CA)

  3. Renae

    “I believe in the church of baseball.” – Annie Savoy

  4. Jack

    Hi Neil,

    Hope the shoulder feels better soon.

  5. Gurukarm

    Having gone through years of increasing pain and finally having rotator cuff surgery, I have a whole lot of empathy, Neil. Great post right up to where my shoulder started aching in sympathy 🙂

  6. Brian

    I lived and died by the ’86 Cubs. And routinely got called out in tee ball for throwing the bat. But baseball is still my favorite sport. Maybe next year …

  7. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    Redeemed and crucified on a high holy day. I think I’ve head this story somewhere before…

  8. Sheryl

    Oh, the irony. Hope your shoulder feels better soon.

  9. Nance

    Did you see a doctor? Could it be adhesive capsulitis? Just wondering. My husband also had rotator cuff inflammation recently. He borrowed my TENS unit and took prescription strength NSAIDs. He’s already back to playing golf.

    I’m with you on the playing baseball thing. Forced to play in highschool gym, I defiantly sat on my glove in the field at every assigned position. Screw them all.

  10. Megan

    Remember the TV show “Maude”? Remember how she used to say, “God will get you for that, Walter?” That.

    Hope your shoulder heals quickly.

  11. dufmanno

    Let’s go Mets- has the magic from 86 worn off already? I’m one of those terrible fans who throws their weight behind the team with the best chance. It’s why I can tightrope between the Mets/ Yankees/ and now The NATS with ease and virtually no guilt.
    I feel this increases my chances of survival post societal collapse. I’ll be with that lot over there- you know- the one with the best hunting skills.

  12. Sara

    Not being a person who goes to see many (read any) sports games, I am puzzled by this idea of all the entertainment and distraction needed just to get through a game. Isn’t the spectacle of the game enough? And if it isn’t, why do people go? Enquiring minds want to know!

    • cashdoller

      People go to sports games to watch their team hopefully win. It’s a tradition in our culture that’s been around since the days of Rome and watching the chariot races at the Coliseum. Even back then poor and rich people used to go watch and root for a winner.

      Now in the case of this guy going to a mets game in October at the end of the season to watch two of the worst teams in baseball makes no sense to me either. I see absolutely no point in going to a sporting event when the fate of the team has already been decided. The entire point for me is to be victorious and have a shot at winning the championship.

      I think in his case though he just used it as an excuse to go out, a night at the ball game. There is something kind of relaxing about going to a baseball game.

  13. Kim

    Oh, man, my shoulder is still not 100% so when you said you reached for that towel, I could feel it coming. If this is what God feels like, I choose atheism.

    Feel better, Neil.

  14. Susan in the Boonies

    OK, NOT Funny for you, but, so, so funny!
    Really great post, and I’m just so sorry about your rotator cuff!
    I’d hug you…but…you might need to lift your arm….

  15. Delfin Joaquin Paris III

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird when grown men where the jersey of another grown man?

    • cashdoller

      Yeah you are the only one

  16. Alma

    This was so good I feel like I should have paid to read it. As a New Yorker who was a Mets fan and was at the 86 game I feel your pain …as for the pain on your shoulder that is temporary … the pain from the Mets may not be. Still gotta love them.
    By the way, we need to bring the wave back!

  17. Amy

    Who doesn’t like a free towel every now and then? You sound like a scrooge.

  18. angela ( angfromthedock )

    the only person fasting at citifield?
    oy. funny guy:).

    ( we were in jamaica for yom kippur this year. at a buffet, no less. i will not even discuss if there may have been pork present. however, it was just us, the family, and it was lovely ).

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