In town for the college football championship game between Ohio State and Oregon, I meet Gibby (pictured on the left) in the parking lots outside of AT&T Stadium. "Be honest, be honest," he spit-screams, pointing into the distance. "That's the biggest fucking stadium you've ever seen."
A 1992 graduate of Ohio State, Gibby tells me he lives outside of Cincinnati with his wife and two kids, and his family occasionally allows him to travel to watch his team play. "She understands what's more important," he says of his wife. "You gotta lay that out, otherwise you get divorced."
Along with Gibby, who is here with his 82-year-old mom (pictured on the right), I am drinking beer with a few other OSU fans. One expresses confidence that Ohio State will win, but Gibby mishears him at first. "What?! Oh, I thought you said, 'no way they'd win.' I was about to punch you through this truck, and I can do it. Trust me."
As it gets closer to kickoff, Gibby's mom is anxious about making it to the stadium on time, and she doesn't want to walk. "I don't want to be stuck here without transportation," she says. Gibby tells her not to worry, explains he has arranged for a golf cart to drive them over. But she appears skeptical. When Gibby offers his mom a high five, she leaves him hanging.
September 19, 2015, Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, MI)
A sea of maize and blue, as seen from the press box at Michigan Stadium, aka The Big House, so named for its official capacity of 107,601 and its standing as the largest stadium in the United States.
March 6, 2015, Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY)
"I have at least 30 to 40 superstitions," says Bruce Reznick, a longtime Nets fan better known as Mr. Whammy for the hexes he places on opposing free-throw shooters. "I got it from my mother."
When I meet Bruce—pictured with his wife, Judy—he's enjoying a pregame meal of salmon sushi. I ask if eating sushi is a superstition.
"This is lox," Mr. Whammy corrects me. "It's raw lox."
Says Judy, "To us, it's like lox with rice."
"This is the only thing we'll eat, usually."
"Also the turkey, the turkey you like."
Mr. Whammy concedes, "They have great turkey."
April 15, 2015, Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland, OH)
Outside Quicken Loans Arena, toward the end of a Cavaliers game, I sidle up to Maurice Reedus, Jr., aka Sax Man, a local Cleveland legend, while he sets up to play for passing fans.
Pretty soon my attention turns to another man lurking on the walkway, though, one of Sax Man’s old college classmates, dressed in a blazer and mock turtleneck (not pictured here; I took his photo but he made me delete it). The man introduces himself as Star and tells me he’s a pimp. This intrigues me, because I don’t often meet pimps. I ask Star what exactly he does, wanting to understand the logistics of pimping. How does one pimp, I wonder?
“That’s they business. They hos!” he says, explaining that his women typically find their own dates, but he can hook me up, if need be.
Regretfully I decline. Ask again about his role in the operation.
“Whatchoo mean my role?”
You’re the pimp.
So they just report to you?
“Yeah. Heh, heh! If that’s what you call reporting to me.”
I question why these women need him, why they would report to him, if they find their own dates. This seems to challenge the most basic principle of Star’s life, like asking why gravity keeps us in place.
“They ain’t got no other goddamn choice but to goddamn report me!” he says. “They have to give me the money, because I take care of their motherfucking asses.”
One more time I try to understand the logistics, asking how he got into the pimping business, to which he responds: “It got into me, and I didn’t let it go.”
Tell me about the first time, I say.
Star laughs. “You so crazy! Excuse me.”
He takes a phone call, while another man, who I recognize as one of the panhandling regulars around town, comes up. He is a friend of Star’s and seems to be warning me off. “You asking a lot of questions, buddy,” he says. I explain I’m working on a book. He said, “You done wrote a book in the last ten minutes. This man don’t joke. I know him. He told you enough.”
June 6, 2015, Fenway Park (Boston, MA)
This is the view from the field box of former Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, who invited me to join him for a Saturday afternoon game against the Oakland A's. The night before, sitting just a few feet away, a woman was hit by a shattered bat that helicoptered into the stands and sent her out of the ballpark with life-threatening injuries.
When I ask a field-side security guard who worked the previous night's game if he had ever seen anything like that (fan injuries are a growing issue in MLB), he says, "Yeah, in my other job." And what's that? "I work in an emergency room."
July 11, 2015, Wrigley Field (Chicago, IL)
This is Dave Davison. He is a Wrigley Field ballhawk. He waits beyond the ivy for batting-practice moonshots and in-game dingers. It can be slow going, especially since the Cubs put up a giant video board in left field and extended the bleachers over former sidewalk space.
To kill time, Dave may have a beer (or two). Today, after removing the top and bottom of a Coke can, he wraps the remaining aluminum skin around a Budweiser. Just like that, he’s drinking Coke. Later, on his second (or third), the beer slips out of its camouflage container, exploding on the pavement.
Dave turns his palms up bashfully. A passing security guard shouts, “You’re cut off!”
July 10, 2015, Wrigley Field (Chicago, IL)
I don't know what's up with this guy -- but I love him.
August 28, 2015, Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, MO)
This is Bob Danley, standing in front of his Chiefs-themed hearse. (On the side, it reads: "Die Hard Chiefs Fans.") Bob used to work in a funeral home, he tells me, but that's not how he procured this vehicle. "This one I bought on eBay," he says. "It's a Buick."
For Royals games, he drives an old ambulance.
Why the emergency vehicles? "Because they are cheap!" he exclaims, adding: "And they are usually well maintained."
September 20, 2015, Lambeau Field (Green Bay, WI)
Chiefs fans aren't the only ones to roll up to stadiums in emergency vehicles. In the parking lot at Lambeau Field, there is a whole segment known as "ambulance row."
September 2, 2015, Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City, MO)
The KCrew is an all-female hype team for the Kansas City Royals. The room where they get ready for the game reeks of hairspray and homemade tofu. "Lot of estrogen in here," says a game crew staffer.
At 25, a woman named Lauren is the oldest KCrew member. "I feel like a grandma," she says.
When I ask if they get hit on often, she says, "Yeah, and it is never like, you are really pretty. It’s always like, “Take a selfie with me! This is my third beer! Crush a beer can on my face!”
Will Lauren do this again next year? "Uh, no. But I don't regret it."
September 4, 2015, Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City, MO)
Sluggerrr is the mascot for the Kansas City Royals. He is often entrusted with infant children, much to his surprise.
July 7, 2015, Wrigley Field (Chicago, IL)
Al Yellon is a regular in the Wrigley Field bleachers, where it is customary to throw back homers hits by the opposing team. This is his decoy ball, which he would throw back instead, if ever given the opportunity.
November 8, 2015, Superdome (New Orleans, LA)
North of the Superdome you can find a whole bunch of Saints fans tailgating underneath the highway overpass. Here, chairs are set up in front of a TV and deejay stand, for those who won't be going inside the stadium when the game begins.