In the Infield, Beer Games and Fights Are the Main Event

Heavily-favored Big Brown pulls away down the stretch to easily win the Preakness Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths, setting the stage for a possible Triple Crown victory at the Belmont Stakes.
Sunday, May 18, 2008

Last year's Preakness Day infield featured the mass-market debut of Port-a-Racin', the artful attempt to sprint over the top of a row of port-a-potties while dodging flying debris cheerfully volunteered by the surrounding masses. A year later, the game had changed: Now, the sprinting was banished to history's dustbin, as the flying debris itself took center stage.

Near as anyone could tell, yesterday's game of beer-can volleyball broke out when someone flung a brew from the top of an outhouse. That, the surrounding masses realized, looked like jolly good fun. And soon the sky filled with silver and foam, the silver signifying surprisingly heavy vessels of light beer, the foam showing that this light beer eagerly wished to come out and join the party.

Six, seven, eight cans were volleyed back and forth simultaneously, some being consumed after their fleshy landings, others taking flight again. Some infielders shielded their heads with Styrofoam coolers. Others joined forces, hoisting a giant blue tarp to ward off the incoming fermentable attack.

One man proudly showed off what he claimed was a beer-can related broken finger. Another yanked a can out of mid-air, consumed its contents and chomped the defeated can between his jaws. A young woman face's snapped back after impact; she shook her head and managed a timid laugh.

The game was interrupted occasionally by a less subtle form of hostility, shirtless men beating each other upon the face, then hugging, then beating some more. Solidarity peeked around every corner; when the fights faded, the shirtless punchers clumped into wobbly kick lines and joined voices in soccer's iconic "Olé" song.

But then solidarity slunk back into the mud, fists flew again and chests already painted with mud and light beer added bright crimson highlights.

"I always love watching the fights," one bystander mused philosophically, as two shirtless fellows went careening into the row of port-a-potties.

Leaving the land of fights, the fun was of a more conventional nature. The rousing bachelor party, for example. Or the "What Horses?" T-shirts. The proud parade of an American flag, saluted by "U-S-A" chants. The man with a fishing pole, claiming he was fishing for members of the opposite gender, using Miller Lite as bait.

Some infielders gamely bet the ponies; for others, racing's only impact was in shirts bearing sexually suggestive race day puns. "Mount" proved a particularly popular word.

"Over half the people in here haven't even seen a horse, are you kidding me?" 20-year Arica Wenzel of Linthicum, Md., said during one break in the beer wars. "Probably one-quarter of the people here don't even know this is a horse race."

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