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Staring Down the Barrel of my Life-Long Fear at the Cleveland Guardians Game

On Sunday, July 23, 2023, I went to Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, with my buddies to see Jose Ramirez and the Guardians take on Bryce Harper and the defending National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies in the final game of their three-game weekend series.

photo by Joshua Ungar

My whole life, I have been extremely sensitive when it comes to dealing with loud noises. I do have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the milder end of the Autism spectrum. Therefore, when I go to Guardians games, I put my earplugs and headphones on during certain aspects of the game experience due to the usage of fireworks at Progressive Field. 

I put my earplugs and headphones on during:


  • The national anthem 
  • When the Guardians first take the field
  • When Cleveland is up to bat, in case there’s a home run 
  • When the Guardians are about to secure victory in the ninth inning


 Sunday’s game against Philadelphia was the second Guards game I had been to this season, as I was also at the game against the Boston Red Sox back on June 8 where Ramirez hit three home runs. Due to my longtime fear of fireworks and pyrotechnics, that game was rough but also amazing to be at. 

Typically when a home run is hit, my music will already be playing and all I have to do is duck down, so that I don’t see the fireworks when they go off. Even though I implement the same strategy whether it’s an afternoon game or an evening game, I prefer afternoon games because the visual part of the fireworks is taken away, at least to a certain extent. 

But for this Sunday afternoon game against the Phillies, I wanted to try something a little bit different and push my boundaries a little bit further. 

photo by Joshua Ungar

This time, I would still wear my earplugs and headphones during the national anthem and when the Guardians initially took the field, but during the game itself, I was going to try full exposure, which means that I would not duck down, no earplugs, and no headphones. I knew I still had those options available to me as a backup if I felt full exposure was going to be a little too overwhelming. Also, if the Guardians were in position to win in the top of the ninth inning, then I would put my earplugs and headphones back on and duck down.  

The primary reason I felt comfortable enough to even consider attempting this is because I went to this game with three of my best friends who have basically become my brothers: Collin, Trent, and Chris. I also felt comfortable enough to attempt this because it was an afternoon game. If it had been an evening game, there’s no way I would’ve attempted it because the fireworks are much more visible at night. Since the Guardians typically do post-game fireworks on Friday nights and Saturday nights, I refuse to go to those.

 I thought for sure my nerves and anxiety levels would be extremely high given the magnitude of what I was attempting to do on Sunday afternoon. Last year, I went to the 15-inning Game 2 of the Wild Card series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Guardians. When I walked up to the gates, along with my sister and her fiance, the national anthem was playing and that sent me to an emotional breakdown. I was able to re-compose myself and stay in my seat for all 15 innings, but it was still one of the hardest and scariest things I’ve done. 

While getting to the gates just as the national anthem was happening did play a role in the elevation of my nerves and anxiety, the biggest factor is because the playoffs are a much bigger stage than the regular season. The Guardians wound up hitting three home runs in the game, including the game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth. When the home runs were hit, one firework would go off and then a few others would follow up. Even though heading into the game my plan was to do full exposure, that didn’t quite happen. Instead, I covered my ears with my hands and ducked my head slightly. 

Ultimately it wasn’t the 100% full exposure that I was going for, it was more like 95% or 97% exposure. Either way, it was a massive step forward in the right direction for me because that’s the closest I’ve ever come to doing full exposure. Maybe next time I go to a game I’ll be able to successfully go 100% full exposure.


  • Josh Ungar

    Josh is a 26-year-old freelance writer in Cleveland. He is an avid sports fan and loves making content on his YouTube channel expressing his opinion about various topics from across the sports world. He also loves Broadway Musicals, especially GREASE.

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