|Drawing by Bernie Moloney|
Z and I took ourselves out to the ballgame, the other day; out to Citi Field, home of the NY Mets to be precise….because I know some of you folks are precision freaks.
And it was an excellent time to go, because the Mets—at least for now—are on an upswing.
I say, for now, because if you’re a Met fan or just a fan of baseball in general, you know that the Mets are one of those teams whose fans must apply the prefix, “long suffering” to the word fan.
Which is actually something we’re proud of…so be advised not to share a table with us come lunch time.
No matter how well things are going…we’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Fans of longtime, successful teams, such as the Yankees, never wait for the other shoe to drop. In fact, on the contrary, they actually expect someone to come and polish their shoes.
So it was a fun day at the old ballpark.
Well, actually—again in the interest of precision—it’s a new ball park that opened in 2009, to replace the last new ballpark, Shea Stadium, which opened in 1964…that replaced the first ballpark, the one that George Washington used to frequent during the revolution…I think.
And that ballpark was known as the Polo Grounds once home to the Yankees in the early 20’s and the New York Giants baseball team until 1958…you know, before they up and left for the windblown confines of Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
I bring up the Polo Grounds because it’s where I attended most of my earliest major league baseball games, back in 1962…that is, if you consider the version of the game those early Met teams played, major league baseball.
But it didn’t really matter what the quality of baseball was, back then…what mattered was you were going to a baseball game…and you were going with your dad.
I wrote about all of that and the reasons why I became a Met fan some time ago, so I’m not taking another trip down nostalgia lane, here. But it struck me, as Z and I stood on the security line, outside the stadium, for 20 minutes…as if we were preparing to board a flight to Brussels, how much things have changed since those early days. I wondered just what my dad would have thought of the new 21st century version of, “take me out to the ballgame”.
Back then, all my dad needed to be entertained at a ball game was a bag of peanuts, a cold beer and scorecard. Okay, sure…sometimes he went a little crazy and brought his own pencil, but that was only because he found those little nubby ones to be incompatible with his little nubby fingers.
Instead of buying tickets through some on-line computer site from the luxury of home, he walked right up to a dingy, stadium ticket booth and negotiated for the best seats he could wrangle from some guy with a cigar sewn into his mouth, who held the unique power to banish you to a seat behind a support pole in the grandstand, just because he didn’t like the shirt you were wearing.
And once the negotiations were concluded, amicably, and those magic ducats were in hand, the only security issue that was of any concern, was avoiding that suspicious puddle of brown liquid pooling by the gate.
Once inside this cramped, dark, mysterious structure, steep, rickety walkways steered you to your section in the upper deck, where some guy with a dirty rag “wiped down”—you know, for sanitary purposes—your seat…the seat you would actually occupy for the next 2 hours.
Yeah…I said 2 hours, because back then, games weren’t subject to the rules of TV, players didn’t primp before every pitch, and “between innings” basically lasted only as long as it took for the pitcher to get his 8 warm up pitches thrown.
Also, back then, the only form of “between innings” entertainment was watching a guy trying to carry a bunch of beers back to his seat without spilling most of it on the folks in the row in front.
Today, going to the ballpark is a “fan friendly experience”. Upon entry, after the full body cavity search, you wander the museum, the team store, the food courts—as in multiple food courts—the family fun center, restaurants, bars, etc. etc. etc.
Sure, the new stadiums are designed to support the class system, but it’s nice to be able to walk around the wide concourses without taping your arms to your sides and unsticking your shoes, from the ground after every step…and comfortable seating abounds, with great sight lines no matter where you can afford to sit.
Gone are the cigar chomping, wise guy ushers, replaced by friendly, well trained “fan services” personnel, who look as if they’d just as soon hug you than chase you away.
Once seated in your ergonomically designed stadium chair you’re entertained by cute dogs on a million foot wide HDTV screen, supported by a gazillion mega-watt sound system. Preppy young kids run around the periphery of the field launching t-shirts into the heads of unsuspecting spectators, which is always fun to watch.
Throughout the game, batters are introduced by their very own choice of motivational, ear shattering music. Pre-recorded organ sound effects tell us when to cheer and make noise. And in between innings, there’s an assortment of trivia games, fun facts and kiss cams to hold your interest…you know, should you have a short attention span and forget where you are.
So, like I said earlier, it all got me to wondering what my dad would have made of 21st century baseball at a new 21st century stadium; he of the hot dog, beer and scorecard generation.
What would he have made of all the multi-millionaires pitching only 5 or 6 innings, happy to be taken out of the game… batters coming to the plate in gear borrowed from the bomb squad? How would he have handle the overwhelming sensory overload emanating from surround sound speakers and scoreboards larger than his house…times 4?
And my conclusion was…he would have LOVED every minute of it….
Because in the end, through it all, there’s green grass, dirt on the infield, chalk on the foul lines and batter boxes, a guy with a bat and a guy with a ball, surrounded by 8 other guys on the field.
In the end, he would have said... “Hey, it’s still baseball…and that bonehead should never have tried to steal second with 2 outs and our best hitter up at the plate. And can you get me one of those $16.00 Black Angus steak sandwiches with the $9.00 streak fries…and one of those fancy craft beers that cost what I put down on my house in 59…it’s your turn to buy, isn’t it?”
At least that’s what I think he would have said.
Wishful to be sure, since I’ll never really know…but it’s still baseball, so that’s what I’m going with.
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