Last fall I stood in line in a men's room at Giants Stadium while a kid no older than six approached a urinal at least two inches too high for him.
For football fans, these were anxious moments -- minutes before kickoff, when each of us in the full-bladdered rabble was eyeing the glacial progress at the front of every line. So the boy's exertions did not go unnoticed.
We all saw him rise on his toes, as if trying to fool a cutout clown that says you must be this tall to ride the cyclone. First one shout of encouragement ("You can do it"), then another ("Higher"), and after 30 seconds an urgent chant echoed in the lavatory:
By Meadowlands standards, this was a
I thought of that whiz kid over the winter, when the
Wrigley, of course, is sport's most hidebound place, deeply suspicious of showy displays like electric light or sustained success. Naturally, when gleaming new bathrooms were broached to Cub fans, there was a backlash, and quite possibly a backsplash.
Fans clung to Wrigley's stainless steel, trough-style urinals. Not literally, mind you, though that happens too: "People always ask for the bathroom stuff, like the urinals,"
To a great many Cub fans, the troughs were sacred.
Still, having gone to -- and in -- Wrigley since I was a child, the mere thought of losing them had aggrieved me. And I couldn't say why, exactly.
It's not just that they're an endangered species, though the troughs are surely that. In modern stadiums, they are going, going, gone. Citi Field is among the new stadiums with "waterless urinals." The stadium may be in Flushing, but there's no flushing in the stadium.
No, there is something deeply democratic about those troughs, something very e
In the spring, I published a novel called
These fixtures, for reasons I can't fully explain, struck a chord. Readers regaled me with their own experiences. One interviewer recounted the dread of his maiden voyage as an 8-year-old at the old Yankee Stadium. Just before he stepped to the urinal -- with a conga line of inebriated Yankee fans impatiently queuing behind him -- his uncle slapped him on the back and said: "Don't eat the mint."
For years the mint -- or urinal cake -- has been a literary muse not unlike that other small cake,
My favorite piece of sports urinalism is my colleague
All of which had me thinking, Proust-like, of the long-departed Metropolitan Stadium in my hometown of Bloomington, Minn., and a Minnesota Twins game circa 1974, and my first sight of the puck, as the cakes were called in hockey-mad Minnesota.
At age seven, I had long ago made the transition from crib to bed, from trike to bike. But the segue from stalls to urinals felt like a larger leap into adulthood. When I successfully made it -- while all about me men smoked, swore and swilled Grain Belt -- I had no idea that a lifetime of literary inspiration and sports infatuation had just been sown.
But I knew something significant had happened, that the urinal and I had left each other in a similar state. Which is to say: Flushed.