01 June 2008

Saturday Night Impressions

Sat in Tracy's seats beyond third base on Saturday night, and after enduring her capricious shipping and handling charges* and intransigent return policy**, we managed to have a good time at the game. At most ballgames, my first connection is with other fans situated around me, but Tracy's seats, like Bob Eucker's, are in the front row! From there, one's primary connection is with the green panorama almost on top of you and the lifesize players gliding upon it. It's easy to forget you're part of the larger crowd. The wave goes by, for example, and you barely notice - because it's all behind you. The game and player movements capture your entire visual spectrum and complete attention.

Well, except for Mike and Vanessa, my in-house hosts. Not even the front row can save me from their commercial assault every half inning. It's an understatement to say I dislike these segments; it might even be an understatement to say I really hate them. The crass marketing scripts are really more suited to used car ads blaring on rock radio, and the shrill, cheerleaderiness of both principals is so off-putting, so out of place at a ballpark, I actually wish the segment voice overs were done by the stadium PA man - a rather sing song-y embarrassment in his own right.

How bad is it? Fans, Romans, countrymen - lend me your ears. Please. Imagine you're in your home away from home. For Paul, it's good ole Shea. For Russell, Old Bailey (old "Nat" Bailey, that is). Now, imagine a chick with a really grating voice and a fat pasty white guy, both miked, who audibly take over the ballpark every single half inning to hard sell something. In one segment, they'll yelp about how T-shirts are on sale at the Team Shop for, like, $14 or something. Hurry! While supplies last! kind of garbage. Like if I wanted a T-shirt, I couldnt just walk over to the Team Shop on my own initiative, or bodyblock nearby patrons to the ground and capture a bundled shirt from one of the pretty's garment bazookas.

Then the entire stadium gets to hear them squeal about Aquafina and Taco Bell and Gila River Casino and on and on. It's not enough, apparently, to have these ads plastered all over the stadium. Derrick Hall has decided that in addtion to that, the Dbacks' will further enable these incorporated purveyors of overpriced packaged water (plain and teeth rotting "sugar" varieties available), fatty foods and Indian gambling by literally yelling their sales pitches into the unappreciatve skulls of baseball fans at every conceivable opportunity. Unappreciative? There hasnt been a game all year I've attended where at least one person within earshot hasnt complained about this. Saturday was no different. I heard two complaints. Every conceivable opportunity? Well, there's technically eighteen half inning breaks from the middle of the first til the game's end, seventeen if you dont count the seventh inning stretch and "Take Me Out To The Ballgame". I lost count, but I think Mike and Vanessa were up at least thirteen or fourteen times.

The game was easily the fastest I've ever witnessed live, at 1:52, as well as the second fastest ever at BOB/Chase. There were thirteen hits but no pitching changes, no coaching visits to the mound on either side. I dont even remember a catcher walking out to the mound although it might've happened once. All four runs scored quickly on solo homers - there were no time consuming, nickel and dime rallies. Webb and Bergmann (8IP loss) both went the distance and neither issued a single walk. Mucho credit to notorious pitcher's ump, Angel Hernandez, behind the platter - I mean plate.

For the first time in memory, the roof was opened during the game, immediately after the third inning. I support the policy to open the roof midgame when feasible, but I did notice it took my eyes a minute or two to adjust to all the extra light as the Nats were batting in the top of the fourth. That could be a competitive bone of contention for visiting clubs going forward. It takes about four minutes to fully open and the panels were still telescoping into one another as Webb pitched in the fourth. Also, for the first time in memory, the roof opened sans the distinctive music specifically composed for the occasion back in 1998. Would you like to know why? I'll give you one guess. That's right. So we could listen to Mark and Vanessa instead.

There's no coarser example of how Derrick Hall has aggressively shifted fans' attention from the grandeur of the game's surroundings, in particular the elegant technology of this stadium's architecture, for just one more placement for cotton candy or Riviera pools or whatever it was. There were kids at that game who had never seen the roof open. It's not that the stupid ads distracted kids' attentions sufficiently to miss out on the roof. Hell, it's beautiful and one cant help but look up as periwinkle blue opens up over you, very slowly, like a blooming iris, showering upturned faces with the gentle light of early evening. But ads chattering away in the background send a terrible message, especially to kids. The message is that even though I think this roof is cool or important or beautiful, adults (those tall people in charge who I glean most of my knowledge of the world from) are not so subtly suggesting that the roof is not worthy of attention - it's just a utilitarian function to get over with, like taking a crap, while the all important ads drone on. The music was different. It called attention to the roof. Celebrated it, said "Stop what you're doing and check this out." There are more important things in the world, I imagine, but identifying and respecting beauty, and passing that sensibility on to the next generation, is up there in my book, and while it's unsurprising current Dback leadership is opposed to those values, it remains a disappointment.

I got my hand on a foul ball, but couldnt close the deal. Drew bounced a soft foul liner that bounced once or twice past third and I reached over the short wall pretty far to knock it down. I touched it twice but couldnt haul it in, so leftfielder Willie Harris came over and tossed it to the lady next to me, who in turn gave it to a young child. No one gave me a hard time in the stands over it - it wasnt like it bounced over the wall into my lap or anything, or maybe I'm too big and scary looking to get heckled - but from one who's played ball to anyone else who's played -I should've had it, and I was embarrassed and depressed about the flub. I've caught a couple balls at parks before, harder chances actually, but that was then. I havent played catch in years and my hands were like useless wooden paddles Saturday. My eyes are going. I guess I really didnt deserve to get it.

Not to go off on a huuuge tangent, but I was always good with the glove, everywhere as a kid, centerfield mostly as I got older. An aggresive ballhawk with soft hands, I caught everything I was supposed to and a few that I wasn't. That was the fun part, to be so far from home and track the ball off the bat before you could hear it, head steady on the balls of your feet, routing to dive as the audible crack gave way to delayed, far off cheers of an imminent gapper - met by a leap of faith and violent collision with earth, where time and pain stop, like an orgasm. A beat and a half of conscious silence, followed by a different roar, this time for the distant, sprawled defender with mud and ball, then some more distant chatter, silence on the long jog in, and finally, from the infield skin to the dugout, sustained applause from impressed strangers.

We all get older, but yesterday was kind of my moment - the epiphany - and, yeah, I'm kind of bummed out about it.

After the game, outgoing traffic east on Jefferson was pretty stuck. Not historically NLDS awful, just really slow because Jefferson is down to two lanes (it used to be four or five) ever since light rail construction. I voted for light rail and still hope it'll positively transform downtown, but disruption along the main routes has been more extensive and taken longer than I expected. To be honest - alot longer. My 77 year old mother lives in a Central Ave condo and has looked out her window at construction for years now. It's been hard to get in and out of the property for a while. An enthusiastic city girl at heart, she bought the condo largely because it was on the proposed line to begin with - it'd be nice if she ever gets to ride the damn thing.

* this is a joke
** so is this


Jeff said...

Maybe you should send Mike and Vanessa a link to your blog and more specifically, the flowery language with which you describe the roof opening. Maybe after reading it they'll shut up for at least four minutes.

I say 'flowering' but I mean that in a good way. Suddenly I want to track down video footage of this event (or actually see it in person -- WITH the music) to really appreciate it.

In the meantime, your description does a nice job.

Tracy said...

It ain't the best looking or sounding video (you'll want to turn the sound DOWN a bit), but maybe this will help your "visual" (sans Mike and Vanessa).

The Roof

Jeff said...

Thanks, Tracy!

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