I don’t get baseball. I, therefore, felt no guilt in letting my eyes watch the audience instead of the players at my first baseball game at Chase Field, some weeks ago. Kristi, a huge Diamondbacks’ fan immediately noticed my roving eye. But she was kind. “Namgay, did you see Rally Sally?” Who? “She’s up there…waving the flags.” I followed Kristi’s finger. I saw her. She was several rows above us, a tiny figure in red and green surrounded by more flags than I could count. I decided “Rally Sally” was more interesting than the baseball game by the fourth inning, and started climbing to go meet her. Several other friends of mine (all foreign journalists who understood the game as much/little as I did) also decided that she was more deserving of their attention and followed suit.
I wasn’t too sure if it was respectful to address her as Rally Sally when I was finally face to face with her, so I went with ma’am. She looked pleased. She was so small. So old. I felt myself warming up to her immediately (I am biased towards old women because of my grandmother, who I love dearly). She had no time for pleasantries (unlike my grandmother). I had thirty seconds to explain what the strange group (a Bhutanese, a Filipina, a Latvian, a Beninese, a Gabononese, a Montenegrin, and two Americans) was doing intruding upon her territory so obnoxiously. She thrust two small flags into my hands and said, “No time to waste. Here, swing this from your elbow. Stop when his bat comes up to his shoulder and wait.” She was a tough taskmaster. All of us got to do a cheer each. Every batsman had a unique flag and a cheer. Every cheer had a method. There was a method to the madness!
Sally’s real name is Cindy McBride. She was surprised when I asked her what her name was. “Didn’t people tell you I was mad?” It was my turn to be surprised. I said No. I told her that I had only heard she was called Rally Sally. That made her giggle. In between barking orders to my friends, arranging flags, and watching the game, Cindy managed to tell me she was in her sixties, has been cheering for the Diamondbacks since the early 90s, and that she quit her job at a dental clinic because she decided to be happy. She said life was too short to waste it being around people who make us angry, and sad. “If they don’t leave, you should.” She has a lower paying job now. She works with hearing-impaired people. “It is the most fulfilling job I’ve had. Don’t ever say “O” instead of “Zero”. We, Americans, like to say O. People who cannot hear get confused when we do that. Be considerate, sweetheart.”
Several young Americans came to ask her if they could wave the flags like us but she turned them away. Quite curtly, in fact. When I asked her why she did that, she looked me in the eye and said, they don’t know how to be polite like you and your friends. I didn’t know how to respond to that.
I noticed she had on very clean white socks and no shoes. She told me she had been in a horrible car accident in winter and getting around had been painful ever since (while I tried to digest that, I noticed she carried a bag twice her size for her flags and pompoms). She wears only socks while standing to ease her discomfort. She tries not to miss a single Diamondbacks game in Arizona if she can help it, she said. I was filled with newfound respect for Rally Sally. I understood her completely- as a crazy fan of another team (Manchester City for the uninitiated).
We exchanged numbers.
I got into a fight with a friend over this the next day. He said she was a crazy woman and would bombard me with messages and calls. “She will stalk you. You shouldn’t be so trusting.” I fought back. So what if she is crazy? She was good to me. Kind to us. She shared what was precious to her with complete strangers. I was thankful.
I have received only one text from her till date. It was a reply to a text I sent her first. She didn’t ask for my number. I did.