Archive for November, 2008

What’s in a Name?

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

 2301354493_0bec583236 by you.

In the town where I grew up, there’s a square white building right off the highway exit, where my parents have kept their money for over 40 years.  It’s a bank.  I have no idea what it’s called.  It has had over 40 names in the past 40 years, or at least it seems that way.  When something keeps changing its name, you forget it even has a name. 

Speaking of banks.  You know, don’t you, that there’s at least a chance that our stadium is not going to end up being called Citifield?  Citibank says that it isn’t reconsidering the naming deal and various people have been saying that they can’t get out of the naming deal (yeah right).  But if the political pressure keeps up, I suspect it’s going to have to.  But even if Citifield doesn’t want to back out of the deal there are other reasons why we may never see a Citifield.

First of all, Citibank might have to change its name because it will have to merge or be acquired to survive.  If Citibank is no longer Citibank, Citifield can no longer be Citifield.    

And then, even if Citibank continues to be Citibank, if it pays $400 million dollars for twenty years for naming rights to a stadium while it’s laying off tens of thousands of people and receiving tens of billions of taxpayer money in a bailout, isn’t there a possibility that all this might begin to look bad?  Isn’t it some kind of rule of advertizing that if an ad starts to make you look bad, it disappears immediately?   Since when are companies loyal to any public relations expenditure that doesn’t, on balance, get them new business?

And then there’s the Mets.  If Citibank starts looking like some mismanaged, bloated, extravagant company that put too much money into shaky investments, if Citibank crashes and burns even though everyone once thought they were really formidable, are the Mets really going to want to be so publicly associated with them?

I’m just saying.  There may never be a Citifield, and even if there is, it may not last.  Look at all the stadiums and civic centers that have gone through a whole bunch of names.  How do you feel about names that don’t even promise to be around for a few years?  Doesn’t it change your whole conception of something if it can’t be fixed with a name?  What if the universe consisted of such things? 

A place that is going to be a repository of memories should at least have a name as fixed and solid and lasting as the place itself.  I accept, with scornful practicality, that the name can be something some board of shareholders pays for.  But something that doesn’t have a lasting name doesn’t have a lasting anchor in our mind.  It becomes something unlike our towns, states, countries, selves, lovers, or friends.   It becomes harder to remember and harder to love or enjoy.


The Food at Citifield

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

 wine by you.

Anthony De Rosa, over at Hotfoot blog, has posted a Mets press release about the “Great Eats in Store at Citifield.” 

I don’t know where to begin.  So the Mets have signed a 30-year deal with ARAMARK to run all the concessions at Shea and ARAMARK has signed up with Danny Meyer’s restaurant group to create an “unprecedented partnership” to provide an “all-star dining experience” for us at Citifield.  Good.  I like food.

What do they have in mind?  Well, for “all ticket holders,” who can schlep to the outfield concourse, there is barbecue and hamburgers and hot dogs.  And, we’re told, a “new concept” called a taqueria that serves some Mexican dish called tacos which Wikipedia says is this shell they put stuff in.  They also have a “new concept” place called “Pop Fries,” which is a “frites” stand, a place where they serve Belgian-style French fries.  “Frites” is apparently Belgian for French fries.   Don’t tell anybody, but they also have frites in France, but people going to the ballpark don’t want to think that they’re eating French food.  A lot of people think that there’s something un-guy like about eating French.  Belgian they can handle. 

Well, that’s all we learn about the outfield concourse.  Then the press release goes on to tell us what they’ll be eating in the Sterling Club, a “premium seating area for 1600 guests directly behind home plate.”  Premium means what?  I’m assuming, from the fact that the outfield concourse is described as “accessible to all ticket holders,” that the Sterling Club is not accessible to all ticket holders.  If my assumption is correct, I won’t be happy.   I particularly like the idea of the Sterling Market in the Sterling Club, which will be a “casual café” serving “classic, artisanal comfort foods.”  They put the word “artisanal” in there to let you know that you won’t be eating the same kind of slobby comfort food they have out in the outfield concourse.  I’m not sure what they have in mind, but I worry that some people are going to find it hard to be comfortable while they’re eating something they’ve been told is “artisanal.”

Inside Sterling Market there will also be the Sterling Beer and Wine Bar, which is described as a “venue” that will have “specialty brews” and “an extensive collection of wines from around the world.”  Wine at the ballpark?  I love wine, but at the ballpark?  What would wine taste like at a ballpark?  What would it cost?  Well at least you’ll have a “venue” at Citifield to drink the wine in.  You don’t have to drink it in the stands.
So congratulations to ARAMARK for being designated Citifield’s “exclusive concessionaire.”  In the interest of full disclosure I have to reveal that I am a little bit mad at them for making it clear to me, when I asked, that they wouldn’t sell my book in the Mets stadium store because they didn’t sell anything that didn’t have some kind of stamp of approval from Major League Baseball.  That’s why they don’t sell any of the excellent books about the Mets at the stadium.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could pick up a book in that store where they sell jerseys for more than any book ever costs?  What do you call a racket inside a racket inside a racket? 

Don’t get me wrong.  I love baseball.  I love the Mets.  I will probably break down and love Citifield.  But I just want to know that if the Mets do to me what they’ve done the last two years, I will at least have the option of coming down from my perch in the Promenade Level to grab a seat in a casual cafe behind home plate, where I can drown my sorrows in a glass of Bordeaux and a plate of artisanal comfort food.


Thoughts About Baseball and Election Day

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

It’s Election Day.  It’s the seventh game of the World Series and your team is still alive.

Anyone who follows baseball knows that there are many similarities between following baseball and following a political election.  There is the same immersion in the day-to-day fluctuations of fortune, the same shifting balance of hope and fear, the same sudden resolution on one final day.  There is the same invitation to the infinite pleasures of geekhood:  the romance of numbers, the memories of earlier epic battles, the friendly community of like-minded geeks.  The major difference between a political election and a baseball season is that a baseball season is much, much shorter. 

Well, there’s also the fact that politics is about something real and baseball isn’t.  Just kidding.  Just kidding.

But, well, you know, this is part of it.  I mean really.  The best thing about baseball is that it feels so real, you make it so real, but it isn’t real.  If the Phillies win the World Championships, you can ignore them.  It can even add interest to what will happen next year.  If the Mets have lost again, you can comfort yourself with the thought that rooting for a baseball team is all about hope, love, and loyalty.  The pain of the loss is very real.    But you know that pain is part of the package.  You chose the pain, in order to have the hope of the pleasure.  This makes baseball pain subtly, but significantly different from unhappiness.  As a baseball fan, I’ve lost a lot more than I’ve won.  But I am still happy to be a baseball fan.

As a voter in presidential elections, I’ve also lost more than I’ve won.  But there’s no way I have enjoyed it.  There’s no way I can see it as part of the fun of following political elections.  The pain comes and it stays.  It can’t be sentimentalized.  It is unhappiness.  If you’re a grown-up human being, you can’t be comforted.  Except by triumph.