Archive for April, 2009

Say It Ain’t So, George

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

In the New York Times on April 27, George Vecsey, praising a sculpture garden of great Cardinals outside Busch Stadium, wrote the following:

“Things are just more conservative in this river town, where the Cardinals have won 10 World Series, second only to the Yankees’ 26. The Mets have won two Series in their first 47 seasons, and management is hearing it from fans who say Mets history has been minimized at the new place.

What do Mets fans want — statues of Marvelous Marv Throneberry missing first and second base on a triple in 1962? Timo Perez shifting into a lower gear on a drive he imagined would be a home run in 2000? Nolan Ryan and Lenny Dykstra packing their bags?

The Mets have produced exactly one homegrown Hall of Famer, Tom Seaver, and a few spectacular underachievers, relying mostly on superb imports like Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza. Even factoring in Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges, that does not add up to a statue garden just yet.”

How could someone who wrote Joy in Mudville (Being a Complete Account of the Unparalleled History Of the New York Mets from Their Most Perturbed Beginnings to Their Amazing Rise to Glory and Renown), 1970 have written this?  I have the greatest respect for George Vecsey, but does he no longer believe in what he wrote so long ago?  Are the only baseball experiences worth cherishing those which are provided by Hall-of-Famers?  Are the many and continuing disappointments of Mets history to be taken as proof that we have wasted as many years as we have spent rooting for them?  Is this why the Mets didn’t do enough to mark their history in Citi Field?  Are they ashamed of themselves?  Why is Joy in Mudville out of print?  Doesn’t anybody care?  Should we be ashamed of ourselves?  Are we all a bunch of losers?  Should we have been rooting for the Yankees or the Cardinals?  Sometimes I just get tired.

Going to Citi Field on April 27

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

I went to Citi Field to see a game on April 27.  I had, essentially, two experiences.  One was awful and one was wonderful.

Approaching Citi Field by car from the Whitestone Expressway, getting off at the Northern Boulevard exit, I saw once again that one of the minor disappointments I will probably just have to get used to is that Citi Field doesn’t look so great when it is approached from the way in which I will always approach it.  It just looks like a big billboard.  It has no charm and none of Shea’s grandeur.  Citi Field does look great approached from the subway or LIRR.  I parked and will probably plan to park in the future in the lot across Roosevelt Avenue.  The stadium is very impressive approached from that direction and, as I was to discover later, all lit up after a game it looks like dynamite. 

So I crossed Roosevelt Avenue, said hello to my family’s brick and then entered the rotunda.  One thing I noticed is that there wasn’t any hospitality agent preventing people from using one of the two central escalators.  This remained true throughout the evening.  The Mets may have wisely determined that there was no need to segregate fans in the Robinson rotunda.  With both escalators being used by all fans, long lines did not form.  Everything was smooth, efficient, and democratic.  Yes, there still was a special smaller escalator to the Sterling Level but this is perfectly all right because the Sterling Level doesn’t connect to anything else. 

The awful experience I had was trying to go to batting practice.  I’d been going to batting practice as a kid, and later, with my kid, at Shea stadium since 1964.  It was always a spectacularly wonderful experience.  I write about it a lot in my upcoming book, The Last Days of Shea.  At Shea, if you got there two and a half hours before the game, you could go right down to the area behind the Mets dugout and watch the Mets close up as they stood around and talked and joked and did their stuff.  You could see that there really was a person named David Wright who looked exactly like his pictures and who liked to horse around with a person named Jose Reyes who looked exactly like his pictures too.  They weren’t just the indistinct guys people saw from the Upper Deck whom you could tell apart by their uniforms.  They weren’t the stars you saw on your television.  They were a couple of always surprisingly young men hanging out while Carlos Delgado was taking his swings.  The atmosphere at batting practice was always wonderful at Shea  People would be taking pictures with all sorts of phones and cameras.  People would call out for a wave from players or from “Mr. Minaya” or even “Mr. Horowitz.”  You got to see photo ops, reporters, special guests.  You felt that you were behind the scenes.  If you looked up and around, you could see Howie Rose, Gary Cohen, or Ron Darling bent over papers, getting ready for the game in their little boxes above a frieze that said “Believe Magic Amazin’ Miracle Believe Magic.”   People talked to each other and then there would occasionally be a flurry of excitement when a player, usually a bench player or a pitcher would come on over and sign a few autographs.  For the most part, though, the ballplayers concentrated on their own tasks.  They were doing enough by letting us get so near to them.  We stood back respectfully and enjoyed our privileged proximity.  When we were told that batting practice was over, we trooped out and went up to our real seats.

Batting practice at Citi Field is nothing like this.  It is crap.  No one who doesn’t have an actual ticket to a seat between sections 110 and 125 can get any closer to the action than section 110 on the first base side and section 125 on the third base side.  Guys in green jackets stand watch over all of the aisles leading to the field from the concourse.  A few of them are stationed along the flanks of the protected seat area.  They look, with tireless vigilance, over at the straggly little crowd standing around in section 110.  If anybody tries to advance into the protected area to get a better camera angle, they are quickly and sharply informed of their transgression.  On Monday night (4/27), two hours before the game, there was almost no one in the vast and tightly guarded area of the field level behind home plate between first and third base.  There were just long banks of empty seats, except for about five people, including two kids with gloves, standing right behind the Mets dugout.  In section 110, I stood with the rest of the people who had come early for batting practice.  I recognized a lot of these people from Shea.  We could see nothing.  The players were at a considerable distance from us and the sun was shining directly into our eyes.  We just stood around, shading our eyes, bored, disgruntled, and looking wistfully over at the rows of empty areas behind both dugouts.  I saw a kid with a mitt looking over at the kids with the mitts behind the dugout with the same look on his face as you see on the face of the hungry kid watching the rich kid eating his spaghetti in Vittorio De Sica’s great film The Bicycle Thief.  It made me sick to my stomach.  I felt as if we were in something like a holding pen.  I didn’t feel as I had always felt at Shea, as if I was welcome in the bosom of my stadium, welcome to be so close to my heroes. 

After standing around for awhile, I noticed that Matt Hoey was leaving his spot in the front row of the holding pen and was walking back up to the concourse.  Matt is one of the diehard Mets fans featured in Mathematically Alive, the guy who was always first on line to buy single tickets when they went on sale at the ballpark.  He’s always easy to recognize at a ballgame because he’s very tall and always wears a well-autographed blue and orange “Cat in the Hat” type hat.  I stopped Matt and asked him how he felt about all of this.  He looked back at the field and said, “I feel bad for the little kids.  You can hardly see who the players are.”  When I said that I didn’t understand why the Mets didn’t just let people go into the areas behind the dugouts the way they always used to, Matt said, “Yeah, it makes no sense.  I’m not going to stop loving them or anything, but it doesn’t make any sense.”  He’s not going to stop loving them or anything.  This is the kind of fan this is being done to.  I really cannot believe the Mets intended to do this.  But somebody didn’t think something out very carefully.  When I complained to a supervisor of the guys in green jackets, he gave me an e-mail address to write and complain to.  I’m going to write to this guy and see if anything can be done.  If this is what Mets batting practice is going to be for the rest of my life, then trust me, it will not be worth going to.  It will become one more reason to miss Shea desperately.  There should be no good reasons to miss Shea desperately except obvious and sentimental ones.  If there are going to be objective ways in which Shea offered a much better experience of baseball, then something is wrong.  I’m hoping that they just have to realize the effect this rule has on people.  I’m hoping they will make it right.

So I went over and ate my dinner by the old Home Run Apple.  If you ever feel disillusioned, if you ever wonder why the hell you are still a Mets fan, just go to that area and watch the people taking pictures in front of the Apple.  It will restore your faith in the human race, and it will show you why you still love the Mets.

The wonderful experience I had at the ballpark was the game and boy is it great to say that.  I had a $15 ticket in Promenade 515 and that was just fine.  The crowd up there was filled with all kinds of people and everybody was loud, rowdy, fun, and generous.  I felt like I was in Shea and that is the highest compliment I can give to Citi Field at the moment.  The game was a gem and filled with all sorts of wonderful pleasures.  An unhittable John Maine.  A catcher hitting his first home run that turns out to be the first grand slam hit at Citi Field.  Sheffield redeems his error.  Daniel Murphy hits a triple.  David Wright hits a triple.  Everybody hits a triple! The bullpen shuts it down and Frankie Rodriguez strikes out batters on change-ups that nobody nowhere no-how can hit.   There is still the new annoyance of the never-ending wave.  There is still the offensiveness of “Sweet Caroline,” which is a dud in the crowd, but they make it look good by putting the one or two people dancing to it up on the screen.  I’m still getting used to the light, to a lot of the stadium being in shadow, to a kind of spooky glare that is very different from the green-yellow brilliance of Shea.  But I realized, as I watched a wonderful Mets game with a crowd that was into it, that what we will ultimately feel about Citi Field will depend on what the Mets do here.  This place could win us over real quick if the Mets 1) tweaked some things that need to be tweaked (more of our history, access to batting practice, opening up access to the clubs and restaurants to everybody after the fancy people have gotten their first shot, bringing back rituals, colors, and totems that reminds us of Shea and the 45 years we spent there) and if the Mets 2) relax, get used to the space, and start winning as many games as they have the talent to win.  After the game ended, I walked out of my section to the common area of the Promenade and over the top of the food stands I saw Queens and the Unisphere beautifully illuminated.  I missed my ramps but the feeling on the stairs was fun.  As I left the stadium, I visited the brick once again and walking towards Roosevelt Avenue, I looked back on an illuminated building with genuine style and glamour.  The Mets are still here.  We’re still here.  We’re still in Queens.  It can happen. 

 

Going to the Game Tonight

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I’ll be going to the game tonight (4/27), showing up to get into the stadium to see batting practice.  I want to see if I can reconstruct exactly the kind of experience I always used to have at Shea, from batting practice to getting onto the Whitestone Expressway at the end.  I want to see what is similar and what is different, what rituals and impressions can be restored and what can’t.  My seats, a very reasonable $15 face value, with an addition $10 added on for unnecessary bullshit charges, are in section 515, row 6, seat 4.  If you see me walking around with my notebook or if you come by my seat, I’d love to get your impressions.  So don’t hesitate to say hi. 

P.S.  One more thing.  I say this every year and I’ll say it again.  Please don’t vote for somebody on the All-Star ballot just because they’re a Met.  Vote for the guy who deserves it.  And please wait until enough of the season has passed so that you can tell who deserves it.  The All-Star game is such a joke when it’s elected by the fans goaded on by team campaigns.  And whenever anyone complains and suggests that we go back to the system where the players elected the teams, MLB says, “Oh No, the fan is king and we want the fans to be represented,” as if all they care about is our happiness. 

 

The Latest

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Thank you, Johan and thank you Mets.  Yeah, it was only a one-run victory against a last-place team but we’ll take it.

But what is going on in Metsville?  The latest is that you can’t hang K signs?  Because it might damage an electronic ribbon board with ads?  Why are they putting up electronic ribbon boards that are so fragile they can be damaged by K cards and tape?  Can they please show us some place in the stadium that is not covered by ads or electronic ad ribbons so that we can have some place to hang our K signs, or even some banners? 

Avoiding a Toxic Moment

Friday, April 24th, 2009

I’m not saying anything about how absurdly the team is playing.  Enough is being said and more is being said than could possibly be of use.  I think everybody should calm down.  It is April and it is too early to start talking about breaking up the core and how they’re “doing it again.”  They’re not doing anything again, yet.  And because we’ve been through the last two years and because the eyes of the fanbase are so focused, by the opening of the stadium, on the issue of why we even bother rooting for the Mets, we’re all a bunch of crazy people.  This is obvious and this is all I have to say about it.  In this abnormal situation, let’s try to create an atmosphere of normalcy so that they can function.  Let’s, well, cheer them on. 

P.S.  Reading The Eddie Kranepool Society and MetsGrrl, I learned about the segregated escalators in the Robinson rotunda (I just bounded up the stairs and I guess I thought that one of the escalators was broken) and the denial of access to the dugout and home plate area in batting practice.  I’ll go to Citi Field, I’m sure, at some point on this homestand and I have to check this out.  Obviously, the proximity we had to the players during batting practice was one of the most cherished aspects of the Shea experience.  This really has to be preserved.  It is profoundly wrong to deny this to fans who have always had it.  And the idea terrifies me that someone thought it was an acceptable idea to have a Jackie Robinson rotunda at the center of which are two escalators that immediately establish, to anyone entering the building, that in this place there are two separate and unequal categories of fan.  I mean, if they want to have a special limited access elevator to the club levels, that’s one thing, but the two escalators are the dominant physical feature of the rotunda.  They are the visual entry point to the ballpark.  And right now they are saying something, in the Robinson rotunda, that no one could possibly have wanted them to say. 

My Impressions of Citi Field, Part V (Final): Writing on the Wall

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I don’t understand that Citi Field is a better stadium than Shea. It would be a god-damned shame if it wasn’t, after all that has been learned about building stadiums over the past 45 years. The designers of Shea paid no attention whatsoever to the idea of making the interior of the stadium pleasant or even tolerable. They designed the stadium to serve both baseball and football. They were working in an era in which the most important architectural principle was accessibility to automobiles, in which ornamentation and finish were considered outmoded concepts, and in which concrete was considered to be an attractive as well as versatile building material. The seats at Shea were cramped. Shea wasn’t built to last. It didn’t.

But I loved Shea. I didn’t love it for its architectural features and amenities. I loved it because it was the place where I celebrated my tenth birthday, where I shared wonderful moments with my family, friends, and strangers, where I saw Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden pitch, where I saw Keith Hernandez play first base, where I saw Mike Piazza hit home runs, where I saw Melvin Mora come home with the run that forced a one-game playoff. It was the place where I danced to “Lazy Mary,” did “The Curley Shuffle,” sang “Meet the Mets,” cheered Cow-Bell Man and the Sign Man, and booed “Sweet Caroline.” I loved Shea for what I brought to it, for what the whole diverse and goofy crowd brought to it, and for what the Mets team and organization brought to it. The ability people have to fill even the unworthiest vessels with their hopes and dreams and love is one of the greatest things about human beings. We made that place our home. We met the Mets, and they were us.

When an important building gets replaced, the people who are replacing it need to manage a very difficult transition. Something has to be done to make the new place recognizable as the worthy emotional successor to the old place. If the transition is too abrupt, if long-time fans do not recognize themselves in the new, they feel a sense of loss that is even greater than what they may have felt when the old place was demolished. They ask, “do I belong in this new world or is there only room for the future?” Baseball can never be just about the future. Look at what it says on the bricks. Those are the messages Mets fans have written on their new stadium. Baseball is about a shared past looking forward hopefully to the future. It is about families and a community moving forward in time together. It is about Mets fans forever.

Don’t let any radio jocks tell you that none of this matters, that all people care about when they go to a ballpark is seeing the ballgame. Who the hell goes to a ballpark just to see a ballgame? If all you want to do is see a ballgame, stay home and watch it on TV. The view is better and Gary, Keith, and Ron will give you much better analysis than you’re likely to get from the people sitting next to you. You go to a ballpark to be someplace special. You go to be where it is happening. You go to be in the crowd. You go to be with your memories. You want to hear the sounds, and smell the smells. You go for the total emotional and physical experience. You want what you can’t get in your living room or in a sports bar. You want to have an experience that is, face it, spiritual. And to have that experience, the place you go to has to connect to your spirit.

Citi Field is a better stadium than Shea. It is a magnificent structure and it has some lovely spaces. It is comfortable and new. Now it is time for us, and for the Mets, to make it ours. Let’s all write on the walls, the way we used to write silly and clever Mets stuff on old sheets and carry them around at the old Banner Days.  Let’s write on the walls the way the Sign Man did and Cow Bell Man does, or like that lady who wanted to marry Wally Backman.  Let’s make the place ours with the sweet, indomitable spirit of Doris From Rego Park.  Let’s give it some quirkiness, some patina, some history, and some noise. Let’s make it feel like Shea re-incarnated in all of the good ways. Let’s give it the spirit of Lazy Mary and ethnic days and Mr. Met. We have some things to overcome, if we want to make this park ours. We have all of those expensive, restricted areas that are not at all in the spirit of our all-inclusive, loving, goofy old ballpark. Too many of the walls in the new stadium are blank, too little of the place looks like us, too little of it says back to us: “Mets Fans Forever.” But if we could overcome Shea’s shabbiness, maybe we can overcome Citi Field’s right-out-of-the-box sterility. Maybe we can get the snobby new guy to take off his jacket and join the party that’s been going on for almost fifty years. Here’s hoping we can do this, with the help of the Mets team and the Mets organization. This party has been too much fun. It can’t end just because it has moved.

 

My Impressions of Citi Field, Part IV: The Second Visit

Monday, April 20th, 2009

I went to Citi Field today.  I wanted to see it again before the Mets went on the road.  I wanted to see what a Sunday game would feel like.  I wanted to see how my impressions might change on a second visit.

Well they changed and they didn’t change.  I liked my seats a lot better this time.  I paid $30 for Promenade Reserved Infield instead of $23 for Promenade Reserved.  This upgrade is worth it.  Trust me.  I was high up but I was right behind home plate and not out in right field.  The seats were very very good, comparable to Mezzanine at Shea right behind the plate. 

So my seats were fine but the thing that made me happiest about my return to Citi Field was my sense that this time, the crowd was actually into the ballgame.  They made noise.  They clapped.  They had a lot of that old Mets fan boisterousness.  They didn’t jump up as much because of the seat pitch, but the people around me were very much into the game.  This was a great relief to me.  I guess that eerie quiet of the other night may have been a temporary thing. 

I did enjoy the stadium and I am beginning to see how it can be best enjoyed.  One thing that remains weird about it is that it is, as I said, kind of inside out.  The seats are okay, but the concourses are wonderful.  It’s in the concourses that you can see the crowd walking by you, now that the crowd cannot be seen to be moving in walkways in the stands or on ramps down to the ground.  I had the impression, in fact, that the concourses are becoming particularly popular places from which to watch big chunks of the ballgame.  There is space, freedom, bathrooms, and food.  All through the stadium, people were massed behind the banks of seats, watching, then walking, then doing whatever.  I’m still not sure I approve of this.  At any one moment, an awful lot of people are not in their seats.  But if I am ever to get used to Citi Field, I may need to get used to the different way in which the crowd flows.  The crowd at Citi Field is all over the place.  It spends a lot of time promenading and vagabonding and eating at picnic tables.  This is so different from Shea.  I worry about the loss of focus on what’s on the field and in the stands.  But maybe this is just something new and not something worse.  It certainly felt festive.

The Blue Smoke ribs were spectacular.
So the crowd made noise, my seats were quite good, the concourses were even sort of wonderful, and the food was spectacular.  Am I learning to love it?  Well, as you might anticipate, some serious issues remain. 

The first and easiest to correct is the lack of connection to Mets identity.  One thing I did check out is that there is plenty of room near the Home Run Apple, around the barely used Bullpen Gate, for a fun, informative, cracker-jack museum.  It also looked to me as if there was space in the Robinson rotunda for some things that could greet the entering fans and let them know right away that they were in the home of the Mets.  I was struck again by the way in which the Mets past and the Mets colors and the Mets logo almost seemed to have been banished.  But I’m going with the idea that this was an oversight, and that this is something that will come in time.  If this omission was intentional, then I have other questions.

 100_3607 by you.

A second issue that really struck me this time, because of the location of my seat, was the cheesiness of the new scoreboard.  I really dislike it.  The ads are particularly ugly and they are so enormous that you don’t even feel you’re looking at a scoreboard.  Somewhere in a bank of incoherent dreck you notice that there is a picture of a player and some information about the game.  The whole space devoted, on the larger scoreboard, to the purposes of a scoreboard is not even as big as one of the ads.  The scoreboards themselves only take up about a sixth (on the left) or a tenth (on the right) of what would be called the scoreboard.  For this reason, it is hard to get involved with whatever is happening on the screen.  You almost don’t notice it.  They had to go through four couples before a fifth couple noticed that they were up on the screen for the Kiss Cam.  The welcome messages for groups, birthdays, and even engagements, are now on the smaller of the two scoreboards, which seems particularly tiny in its bed of ads.  You hardly notice these messages at all.  Noticing the messages had always been part of the fun of being at a game at Shea but it doesn’t look like we’re going to have much fun with these at Citi Field.  We are not even going to have as much fun as we once had with the Diamond Vision.  Even Professor Reyes is not quite center stage.  The Budweiser sign is, and so is an unbelievably busy sign advertising some construction rental firm from Long Island.   You know, what’s the point?  I’m not going to start drinking Budweiser or start watching Fox News because they are totally in my face at a ballgame.  Are you?  Is anybody?  Can’t I just have a nice scoreboard with homey welcome messages?  Or a cute Mets logo like the Beatles played under?  Why is there only stuff about Pepsi and Fox Nation and Dunkin’ Donuts?  I guess revenue is maximized. But it looks and feels embarassing, considering that a scoreboard is the closest thing a stadium has to a face.  Isn’t there some point at which it might be considered worth it to drop a few of the ads for some good will or dignity?  I’m not asking for the wonderful old scoreboard scoreboard of Shea’s early years.  It’d be okay to just go back to the somewhat less cluttered scoreboard of Shea’s later years.   

The third issue I still have with the stadium remains the most serious, because it probably won’t be addressed.  When I first read about the restaurants and club areas behind home plate, it was not entirely clear that these areas would not be open to everyone willing to purchase something there.  When I first visited Citi Field during the St. John’s game, people roamed through the club areas as if it, like all of Citi Field, was the new palace of the people.  That’s not what it was.  That’s not what it is.  On each level I asked the polite door guards what seats one had to be sitting in to get through the door they were guarding.  They gave me the answer.  I had a map and I matched it up with what they told me.  I walked around the stadium and checked out where I could go and where I couldn’t.  The greatest obstacle that will forever stand in the way of me loving Citi Field is the fact that an enormous and highly visible portion of the new Mets stadium has been devoted to areas that I will never be able to enter.  In Shea, the areas I couldn’t enter were small and virtually invisible.  I don’t want to go to a bar or a restaurant when I’m at a ballgame.  But it sticks in my craw that so much of the stadium is devoted to places that won’t have  me.  When I sat in the stands at Shea, I could look around me and love everything I saw.  When I sit in the stands at Citi Field, I see a lot of places that don’t love me and I therefore don’t love them either.  Or I see that ridiculous scoreboard.  I see very little that welcomes me and says, “I’m glad you’re here, Dana, you’re so important to us because I know you’ve been a big Mets fan since April, 1962.  Thank you for buying your $30 ticket and continuing to care about us.”  I see stuff that says “you can’t come here” or “buy me.”  I know it’s like this in other stadiums.  I know Yankee stadium is supposed to be worse.  Maybe it’s not as bad in cities where people have never been paid gigantic bonuses on a regular basis for playing video games.  But there have always been more super-rich people in New York than anywhere else and until now that fact never had a bad influence on the experience of being a New York baseball fan.  I don’t like this.  Yeah, I can still get a good seat and see a good game.  But I don’t like the idea of this.  And even if what these clubs and restaurants and door guards represent is just part of the inevitable future of baseball, I don’t think it should just be allowed to happen without some expression of disdain, protest, and contempt.  I come to a baseball game to experience the joys of sharing and inclusion.  I don’t come to be excluded. 
 100_3617 by you.

The jury is still out, for me.  I like some things and not others. Maybe some really great baseball will make me fall in love with the place, will make me turn a blind eye to the crassness of the clubland that occupies the area of the stadium where I used to be happily at home.  Maybe after awhile I will become blind to the immensity and ugliness of the ads and I will just start seeing the scoreboard.  And maybe, for all of its enormous advantages, I will never feel as at home at Citi Field as I always felt at Shea.  That’s possible too. 

 

My Impressions of Citi Field, Part III: Seeing and Feeling

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

000_0031 by you.

The experience of going to a baseball park traditionally involves a series of intense emotional responses to things you see, things you’ve seen before, things you never get tired of, things that have become a vital part of what you think you are.

Part of the difficulty of adapting to the novelty of a new baseball stadium is that the visual cues that led directly to your emotions are no longer there.  Your spirit is looking for them and your mind has to tell your spirit that they’re not there any more and it needs to look at the new things.  The problem is that your spirit was formed by the old things.  This doesn’t mean that the spirit can’t learn to love the new things, but it does mean that while it is getting used to the new things, it is also looking for traces of what is gone.  It is looking for a connection to what it loved.  It is looking for itself. 

So as I am driving to the new baseball stadium of the New York Mets I remember how I have felt, for 45 years, as I approached what I once called the “blue bowl wrapped in its web of highways.”  It was originally sand-colored, it was always immense and it always seemed to me to dominate the highways that ran towards it and spun out from it.  Nothing was like the excitement I felt as a kid coming from New Jersey, coming down off the Triboro, and somewhere around La Guardia seeing the great God Shea, tall, lordly, and  lovely, between the heads of my parents, just under the rear view mirror.  As a teenager and a young man, I would approach Shea on the “7” train that snaked through Queens.  Finally it WAS THERE as the train rattled into the station along the parking lot.  In the past two decades, I have approached Shea from the north.  On the Whitestone Expressway, it almost looked as if you could drive right into it.  Seen from the north, it was an enormous embracing presence welcoming me.  As soon as I saw it, I was filled with joy.  I never felt anything else.  The joy was immediate, the path was direct.  I saw Shea and I was happy.

I hope I will someday feel this way about Citi Field.  But there is the problem that it is much smaller, and from all directions it looks far less imposing.  And coming down from the north, you approach its ad-encrusted backside.  It’s lovely as you approach it from the train station, but that’s not the way I’ll be coming in.  So the first of my visual cues was missing.  I wasn’t lifted to the skies by seeing Citi Field from a distance.  This may have been why it was so important to me to find my family’s brick for the first time.   I didn’t see what I’ve always known and loved.  But in the bricks in front of the entrance to the new, unfamiliar place, I found something of myself.   

Then I entered the rotunda.  And this experience is the hardest to sort through.  Jackie Robinson is one of the greatest sports heroes of all time and he was a New York National League sports hero.  By opening a closed door, he prepared the way for the opening of many doors that had been closed in our society for so long.  It’s wonderful to commemorate him in the new Mets stadium, although I am more than a little struck by the irony of commemorating Robinson so dramatically in the first Mets stadium that contains extensive areas that are completely off-limits to fans who have not paid an exorbitant amount for their ticket. 

The rotunda is the most impressive space in the entire stadium.  Yet it cannot be denied that the memorial to Robinson that takes up the entire space pushes the Mets aside exactly where they should be at the center stage.  The fact that the stadium reproduces Ebbets Field and memorializes Robinson is in many respects laudable. Ebbets Field was distinguished and Robinson was great.  There is even something touching about an owner of a baseball team memorializing the baseball memories of his childhood.  But the problem is that the Mets have always had a problem with being treated as if they were secondary.  One of the strongest things that binds Mets fans together is our ironic, affectionate sense of our secondariness.  We love something that is not the obvious thing to love.  The Yankees are the primary New York baseball team.  We love the other team.  The Mets came because the Dodgers (and the Giants) left.  But we love them for themselves, not because they’re the successors to the Brooklyn Dodgers.  We make the secondary into the primary with the force of our love.  It may therefore be too much to ask that, when we enter our own stadium, we think first of the Dodgers and not of ourselves.  Citi Field, in its current form, is too much of a reminder that for many old Dodger fans, the Mets are a consolation prize, a lesser team that could never replace the Boys of Summer just as they can never be the flagship team of New York.
 
We have been here for almost fifty years.  There are millions of us.  The Mets have provided some of the greatest moments of the past half century of baseball history.  Even some of their not so great moments are as primary to those who cherish them as anything the Brooklyn Dodgers or the New York Yankees have ever accomplished.  As baseball sentimentalists, the Wilpons should understand this.  Fred Wilpon should honor his own baseball memories and he has the responsibility to honor ours as well.  Owning a baseball team is a sacred public trust, and for the most part the Wilpons seem to recognize this.  They recognized that they had to get us a better bullpen and they got us one.  Now they have to make it so that when Mets fans enter our own stadium, they recognize themselves.  Our Mets emotions need to be turned on, and it would probably be wisest to turn them on with the quirky, tacky, goofy, urbane, improvised, self-consciously silly things that have always turned them on.  Mr. Met is still here so is our dear sweet familiar old Home Run Apple.  Now that we no longer have Shea, and the memories it would immediately bring back for us, we also need a place to take our kids to teach them and show them images and information about all that has come before.  Even more than we need a boutique selling the carefully crafted and inspired designs of Alyssa Milano, we need perhaps just a little stall (a storage closet?!) selling some of the excellent books that exist about Mets history and culture, just in case anyone wants to explore the Mets past in some actual detail (sorry to be a broken record about this but it really rankles me).  I am glad that above the Left Field entrance there are a few close-up, slightly confusing posters of great Mets.  There are also some banners of Mets moments that you can see if you’re walking at the right angle along the left field exterior wall of the stadium.  This is a start.  But much more is needed.  I don’t think the Mets intended to erase the past from the face of the new stadium.  If they felt that way about their past, they wouldn’t have offered us the beautiful final ceremonies they had at Shea.  Perhaps they were distracted by all that is involved in opening up a new stadium.  There is an opportunity now to make amends, to put out a few of the old momentos, to start making the new place feel like our home.

And shouldn’t we, as part of this, have some blue and orange?  What was wrong with blue and orange?  Why don’t we see it in the new stadium?  Some on the radio have criticized the triviality of Mets fans’ concern with “colors.”  But the absence of blue and orange gets to the very heart of the matter.  It may be nothing more than a color combination, but this is exactly the kind of visual cue our spirit keeps looking for.  Ask any Mets fan why they love the Mets and weirdly enough they will often mention the blue and orange.  These are our colors.  We have cathected them completely.  As has often been observed, these are the colors of our blood.

Citi Field has an awful lot going for it but it needs our blood.  And I’m not sure it will have our sound until it has our blood.  The future of the Mets cannot involve a break with the past.  What is baseball fandom if it is not a continuous chain of memory, of inherited affections through generations?  Sure there have been a lot of disappointments in that past.  But our disappointments are part of what we are.  They are in our blood, and they have always seasoned our triumphs.  Our future must grow out of our past.  If Citi Field is to become our home, it is going to have to connect us with what used to make us so happy to go to Shea, for all of its shortcomings.  A winning team will not be enough to make us happy to be Mets fans.  Winning teams are always great.  But they are never enough.  We need more.  We need the mysterious intangibles.  We need our secret signals.  We need what we used to feel when we carried banners along the walkways in front of the stands.  We need the loud raucous Mets love that we shared as we bounced down the outer ramps at the end of a winning game.  Our walkways are gone, our ramps are gone.  Big ugly ads have swallowed up most of the scoreboard.  The stupidly expensive and exclusive club area has grown like an evil cancer to push the Mets fans to the heights and periphery of the stadium, where they don’t necessarily see the field very well.  Sweet Caroline has come back like a poltergeist.  But we still have our team and we still have each other.

We are still the New Breed, the fans of the New York Mets, the illogical, articulate, dedicated fools of legend.  Like a resourceful endangered species, we will make Citi Field our own.  We will start by convincing the Mets to make it more of a home for us.  The recession may even force the opening of more of the stadium to us!   We will move down, as we always have, into the seats that no one showed up for.  We will storm the club level with our torches, carrying Cow-Bell Man on our shoulders.  We will stuff our faces with their artisanal comfort food.  We are here.  We will not go away.  We will cheer champions.  We will make new memories.  And our blood will be blue and orange until our hearts can no longer pump it. 
 

My Impressions of Citi Field, Part II: The Crowd and the Quiet

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

 100_3579-1 by you.

Now I want to talk about some things I’m not sure I liked, on my first visit to Citi Field.  I reserve the right to revise everything I say here.  These are first impressions and I am hoping that they will change.   

I felt, once I was seated and once the game began, that there was a kind of dullness in the stadium, a kind of eerie quiet.  I was surprised by this because I had expected the experience of the game itself to be as happy and lively and pleasant as the pre-game atmosphere.  It wasn’t.  In fact, I didn’t enjoy watching the game anywhere near as much as I enjoyed watching games at Shea.  I have thought long and hard about the reasons why this may have been.  As I said in my earlier post, I am committed to learning to love Citi Field and I am committed to being fair in my evaluation of it.

I believe that part of the reason there was a kind of dullness during the game is that everyone was so pre-occupied with their own explorations of the stadium.  Certainly a lot more people were walking around in the concourses than would ever have been walking around in the concourses at Shea.  I could see the Shake Shack – Blue Smoke area from my seats in section 502 and the area was packed for the entire game.  So a lot of people at the stadium were not paying as much attention to the game as they will be later in the year when the novelty has worn off.

There was also, I think, a little bit of a stun effect.  We are never as spontaneous in a new, unfamiliar environment as we are in a familiar environment.  Even though there were plenty of exciting moments in a thrilling game, people didn’t seem to have their responsive reflexes working.  People didn’t leap to their feet as often as they normally would at Shea, and there were many fewer spontaneous cheers for players coming to the plate, or for second strikes, or for happy, surprising developments in the game.  There were very few points at which there was a successful “Lets Go Mets” cheer that had not been prompted by the scoreboard.  I think this stun effect will go away.  I assume that as we get used to the stadium, we will feel less self-conscious about making noise and getting excited. 

If the novelty wears off and people spend less time exploring the stadium, if everyone, with time and warmer weather, starts feeling more comfortable and spontaneous, will the traditional levels of Mets fan noise and enthusiasm return?  Maybe.  But I think that there are a couple of reasons to fear that they may not.

Here’s one part of the problem:  Some of the shortcomings of Shea were conducive to the intense, enthusiastic involvement of the crowd and some of the advantages of Citi Field may prevent it from ever being as loud and as lively as Shea was when the Mets were playing well. 

At Shea, the concourse areas behind the stands were so unpleasant that no one was tempted to linger in them.  As soon as you could get back to your seat, you did.  And one of the pleasures of Shea, of course, was emerging from the darkness of the concourses into the brilliance of the great bowl of light, where everything of significance was happening.  At Citi Field, even after the novelty has worn off, the pleasant concourses, food plazas, and shops will continue to be distracting.  It will be as nice to watch the game from behind the stands as it will be to watch the game from the stands.  There’s a possibility, at least, that the distractions behind the stands will always drain some of the crowd’s energy and shift some of its focus.  

In the seats in which I normally used to sit at Shea (the Loge and the Mezzanine), if something important happened, everyone always leapt to their feet.  You had to stand up because if the person in front of you stood up, you couldn’t see anything.   In the Promenade Level of Citi Field, where I expect to sit for the rest of my life, the pitch of the seats is so steep that it isn’t necessary to jump up to see an important play.  I noticed that people were almost never jumping or standing up.  Part of this was because their view was not being impeded, but part of it was also because the steepness of the pitch was a little scary.  If you jumped up, the seat in front of you could not serve as a security railing, as would have been the case at Shea.  And if you jumped up, you could sense that if you stumbled, you would break your neck.  Here again, an advantage could involve a disadvantage.  In the Promenade Level, people weren’t blocking your view, and people weren’t standing up.  Maybe this will change and maybe it won’t. 

With more legroom and with the steeper pitch of the seats, at least in the Promenade Level, you are not right on top of the people in front of you, as you were at Shea.  This is undeniably a good thing in terms of personal comfort.  But I wonder if it is one of the reasons why the crowd didn’t feel right to me.  At Shea, you were always aware of the people in front of you and behind you because everyone was uncomfortably on top of everyone else.  Spontaneous conversations were frequent, enthusiasm was immediately contagious.  You always felt that you were in the middle of a crowd.  I didn’t feel this way at Citi Field, because I had more personal space.  I didn’t hear anything anyone else said.  I didn’t have any awareness of my neighbors.  I know that this is supposed to be a good thing.  I was more comfortable.  But I can’t help but wonder whether this was another reason why the crowd was not cohering.  Will the greater space and comfort of the new stadium make it harder for us to come together, or will new pathways develop to conduct our enthusiasm? 

One thing I wasn’t prepared for was my negative reaction to the fact that there is no longer a walkway in front of the sections of the stands.  Until I watched the game the other night in Citi Field, I didn’t realize just how much I have always liked the constant buzz created by the parade and cries of the vendors and by the endless and fascinating procession of fans walking in front of the seats.  It seemed to me that there were hardly any vendors.  Certainly no one came by all evening to try to sell us peanuts and cracker jacks or Pepsi.  Maybe they’ve cut back on the number of vendors because there are so many more food options.  All I know is that I missed their constant and familiar racket.  I missed their bright yellow green shirts and their trays of soda.  I know it seems perverse to be complaining about people no longer walking in front of my view of a spectacle, but I am serious about this.  It was part of what I felt to be a diminished sense of the crowd while I was in the stands.  I felt as if I was in the middle of a very long row of seats, staring at the back of people’s heads.  It was like being in a movie theatre with stadium seating.  I didn’t see anybody.  I didn’t feel as if I was at the game with all these strangers I could see and even talk to.  There was something missing.  Nothing was bringing us together.  At Shea, Cow-Bell Man would walk in front of everyone on the walkways and we would all join together in our section responding to him.  I heard Cow-Bell Man all during the game in the way in which you hear someone banging on a pipe.  He would surface every once in a while, to stand on the little landing between each section, but he would have to descend to the concourse behind the stands in order to move on to the next section.  It wasn’t the same.  We didn’t see Mr. Met in our area of the stands.  Without a walkway, he would not have been able to parade through the stands the way he used to at Shea.  If he had come to our section, he would have been as marginalized as Cow-Bell Man was. 

Yet another element that made it difficult to feel the crowd was the lighting.  It’s probably that I’m just not used to it, but I didn’t like the way the stands were lit.  I’m sure it’s not my imagination.  Shea was much brighter.  I didn’t get the impression that I have written about in my books of “a magical bright green daylight.”  The field was sufficiently well-lit, of course, but the stands were darker and they felt shadowy and there was even what I felt to be a kind of dour impression created by the dimmer lighting and the dark green seats.  Maybe this was a green thing and maybe it is therefore wrong for me to complain about it.  But I missed the sense that I always had at Shea that everything in my field of vision was as brightly lit as it could possibly be, including and especially my neighbors in the stands, whom I could see beside me, in front of me, in back of me.  And when I walked along the walkway in front of the stands, I was always thrilled by the spectacle of the brilliantly illuminated faces, the infinite particularized diversity of the New York crowd.  I didn’t see this at Citi Field.  I got my fullest sense of the crowd when I went behind the stands, to go to the bathroom, or to get food.  There was a sense I had all evening that somehow Citi Field was inside out. 

The peculiar, comparative absence of sound may or may not have had anything to do with a lack of crowd cohesion.  I wondered, as I looked around the stadium, whether there were acoustical differences between Shea and Citi Field that accounted for the differences in the sound.  It certainly seems to be the case that very few seats at Citi Field have any kind of roofing or canopy over them.  Part of the volume of Shea sound may have been created by the fact that large portions of the Loge and Mezzanine, the acoustical heart of the stadium, and often the most densely populated parts of the stadium, were covered in some way.  The sound reverberated.  At Citi Field, much of the sound that people are making may be getting lost.  People may be cheering and not hearing each other. 

There’s another factor that may have contributed to my sense that the crowd was not entirely “there,” or that they were not “there with me.”  And here I have to mention the thing about Citi Field that I will go so far as to say that I hate.  I don’t blame the Mets for this, because what I hate is something that is a part of the way in which baseball in general is developing.  This is a feature of the game that is involved now whenever an old stadium is replaced by a new stadium.  But I want to address this, because I want someone to say something about how hateful this development is, even though there is nothing that can be done about it.  The thing that I hate about Citi Field is probably going to keep it from ever being as loud as Shea.  And it is the reason why, for all of its advantages and amenities, I will never think of Citi Field as being as pleasant a place as Shea at which to watch a ballgame.    

All my life I have paid what I consider to be a fair price for a ticket to a baseball game.  At Citi Field the other night I still paid a fair price.  $23 was a reasonable price to pay for my seat and so I am relieved to find that, for the time being, at least, ordinary people can afford to see the Mets play.  I don’t have a problem with the price of the tickets I will actually buy.   It is true that these seats in the greatly improved new stadium were nowhere near as good as the seats I used to pay $27 to sit in at Shea, in the Loge.  I was much closer and had much better “sightlines” in my old seats at Shea and I felt as if I was in the very heart of the stadium.  At Shea, I could also always see the entire field (that’s part of what good “sightlines” means, I suppose).  In section 502 at Citi Field, I couldn’t see a nice-sized slice of right field and I wasn’t even in the seats that people have been complaining about. 

Anyway, I grant that seats at the ballpark are still affordable.  But here is the difference.  At Shea, virtually everyone paid a price for their ticket that was somewhere between $12 and $80.  Great seats in the Mezannine and Loge were available for prices in the $20s and $30s.  There was the Diamond Club, an exclusive area for season-ticket holders completely hidden, along with just a few luxury boxes, in the narrow press level.  But although there was some range in the ticket prices, everyone was going to a ballgame in the same universe.  All of the tickets were in what I could plausibly consider my price range.  When something great happened in a ballgame, everybody was able to feel close to everyone else in the stadium because everyone was in the same universe, in the same sunshine, eating the same hot dogs.  Everybody was able to be a part of the great illusions of democracy and equality that have always been an essential part of the heritage of baseball.  For almost a century and a half, Americans have been going to ballparks where rich and poor could experience the pleasure of caring about the same thing in exactly the same way.  Yeah, it was an illusion, but it was a noble illusion.   Baseball brought very different people together and this was something you always heard in the grand, broad, reverberating thunder of the crowd at Shea.

It is different now.  Now the bulk of my baseball stadium is taken up by seats that have cost someone as much or more than the cost of a tasting menu at a restaurant that earns three stars in the Michelin Guide.  An enormous chunk of the stadium, its heart, is taken up by the club levels, the areas that are off limits to most of the people in the building, where people with more money than they know how to use intelligently have paid hundreds of dollars for seats no better than my old $27 Loge seats, in which they may simply enjoy the privilege of watching the game, if they choose, from an airport lounge with casino light bulbs in the ceiling that is not significantly more comfortable than a typical sports bar in a strip mall.  Others are sitting behind glass in luxury boxes some company has bought so that clients may watch a ballgame with amazing amenities like private bathrooms and refrigerators, luxuries you can normally only have in your own home.   Exclusivity, once hidden away on the press level because it was somehow not in the spirit of the game, is now on display everywhere.  It is now the stadium’s most marketable commodity, because I can’t think of any reason why anyone would buy any of the seats on the Club Level except to be able to experience some of that sense of exclusivity.  From my seat in the Right Field Promenade, I had to look, for the whole ballgame, at an absurd terraced restaurant, behind glass and with a TV at every table, where the amount people were paying for their seat and their meal was more than they would have paid for a meal at the most distinguished restaurants in the world. 

Every time somebody complains about this, other people say, “yeah, well, if people are willing to pay for this, who can blame major league baseball for wanting to sell it?’ or “what difference does it make to you if you can still get an affordable ticket for yourself.”  This is all true.  But I still say it is gross.  And the reason it makes a difference to me is that the crowd is no longer just the crowd at a baseball game.  It is fragmented and stratified.  And in the wealthy better neighborhoods of the new stadium there is a quiet and a stillness that you can often find in better neighborhoods everywhere.  I looked over at the off-limits heart of Citi Field and saw broad banks of empty seats at a game at which almost every seat was sold.  Nobody was there.  Had they bought their tickets and not shown up?  Were they in the lounges?  Were they behind the glass?  There was a crowd in the Promenade Level.  All kinds of people were waiting on line for cheeseburgers and ribs on the Field Level.  But in the broad area behind home plate, the area where I used to sit at Shea, there was an absence.  There was no sound.  For all that there were some real Mets heroics on the field that night, what was missing was what we had at Shea, the sense of blue and orange (Yes!  Blue and orange.  Blue and orange. Hear me! Listen!  Blue and Orange!) fellowship, the sense that all of us were here together to have the same experience, to share our lives and share our triumphs, to lose our differences and become, all of us, part of a great wall of terrifying, building-shaking sound.

Now that we have a stadium designed according to the new principles of baseball economics, what we had may never be recovered.  And the fact that I can still afford a ticket is not going to make me ignore my fear that something precious may have been lost.  I wonder if overcoming the sense that the heart of the stadium has been turned into a temple of excess is going to be the greatest challenge we face as we try to make Citi Field our home.  I certainly believe that it is a major part of the reason for the quiet.  We Mets fans are going to have to get to work, on a great many levels, if we want to feel at home in a place like this.  We will do this, won’t we, with the Mets’ help?  We have to find each other in this place.  We have to see ourselves and we will have to hear ourselves. 

 [More to Come]

 

My Response to Citi Field, Part I: What I Love and What I Like

Friday, April 17th, 2009

 000_0023 by you.

I am committed to the process of learning to love Citi Field.  The Mets are important to me and they are unlikely to build another stadium in my lifetime.  Either I learn to love this place or I’m up a creek.  The following comments need to be understood as part of this process.  It is not going to be easy and it is going to take me a while.  I will have to struggle to be fair, since I had so much affection for Shea.  But I am committed to being fair.  And to be fair, I have to sort out what I love, what I like, what I don’t like and what I hate.  I also have to sort out what it is reasonable to ask to be changed. 

When you love a place, as I loved Shea, you get used to its imperfections and you cherish what you cherish.  It’s like loving anything.  If Shea were still standing, and I were to enter it for the very first time tomorrow, I would have a lot to criticize.  But Shea is gone and Citi Field is here.  I do not yet love Citi Field and I am therefore incapable of overlooking the things I don’t like about it.  I see much to admire in this stadium.  But nothing has happened in it yet and, at this point, it contains nothing of my life.  It is not yet protected, as Shea was, by the willfull blindness of my love.

Let me start with the one thing I love about it so far:

I love having a brick.  I love the way in which the name of my family is in the ground in front of the entrance.  I love having permanent neighbors in eternal Mets love.  I love the pathos of all of the references to all of the fans still cheering the team from beyond the margins of life.  I think that Citiwalk is a stroke of genius.  The principle of the democracy of the ballpark and of baseball fandom is all right here.  The square bricks are a bit bigger but there are no luxury boulders.  Here is the crowd, in brick and in words.  Here we are speaking to Mets fans of a generation, of ever so many generations hence.  I love seeing the people looking for their bricks.  I love their cries of delight when they find them.  I love the way in which they want to point it out and talk about it to everyone in earshot.  I love everyone helping everyone else to figure out which section is which.

This is all I love so far.  But there are quite a few things I like. 

I like the rotunda as everyone enters and looks up and around.  I like the honoring of Jackie Robinson even if I am still not sure that this memorial should occupy so prominent a place in this particular ballpark.  I would have been happy to have the stadium named after Robinson (a corporation could have sponsored the naming and it would certainly have gotten my business as a result).  The rotunda could have honored both the person for whom the stadium was named and the passion of tens of millions of people who have loved the New York Mets for almost half a century. 

I like the wide, comfortable concourses, where people walk back and forth and see each other walking back and forth.  The best sense you get of the crowd in Citi Field is what you get as you walk all around the stadium looking at everyone else looking for and eating their food.  I like the broader range of food options.  I’ve tried Shake Shack and Catch of the Day and both were excellent.  I particularly like the areas where you seem to leave the stadium to enter what feel like urban village squares open to the sky.  I like the way these places, in the lovely waning sunlight of early evening, remind me of beach or amusement park concession areas at the end of the kind of long summer days that kids remember with love so long after they stop being kids. 

I like being able to get so close to the old Home Run Apple and I like the way that people, unsupervised by anyone, kindly wait on a long line for the people in front of them  to take pictures of this fine, but lonely representative of what the New York Mets have always been.

I like the comfort of the new stadium.  I like having a little bit more legroom and I like how in the mens’ rooms now, there are just about as many sinks as urinals.  Ladies, you can now know that in Shea, each bathroom would have about sixteen urinals, a bunch of stalls (don’t know how many, I never used them) and two sinks, at least one of which was all crapped up and the other was probably occupied.  The men with whom you may have gone to ballgames had not washed their hands after going to the bathroom.  I’m sorry.  This is the truth.  This is the way it was.

I like the view of the sky and the bay from the Promenade level.  I like the view of the arches and the columns of the façade from the parking lot.  I like the enclosed embrace of the stadium as you feel it in your seat and on the concourses. There’s a kind of cosiness to the stadium as you walk to get your food along the field level concourse. And there is an echo of Shea’s sublimity in the view of the entire stadium from the Promenade Level. I like and appreciate the fact that there is still a Home Run Apple. Though its immaculate immensity strikes me as a little sterile and steroidal, I like the fact that there still is a Home Run Apple.  I’m sure that I will learn to love it, as I learned to love Diamond Vision.  Some innovations seem too modern to begin with, but then they grow on you.

This is what I like right now and I expect to like more things as time goes by.

[Next posts:  What I Don't Like and What I Hate, What Can Be Done and What Can't Be Done]

 

Trying to be Fair

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

I went to Citi Field last night and had the privilege of seeing the first Mets win in the new stadium.  I had a whole raft of confused impressions and I will have to take the time to organize them.  Today, because of a prior committment, I don’t have the time to write something that is going to be so detailed and complex.  But I’ll have a big post up very soon.  In general, I feel that I am going to eventually have to love this building because the Mets are a permanent part of my life and they are not going to build another one.  But I don’t love it yet.  I found a number of things to admire, and there are a number of things I am not crazy about.  It is too early to tell which of these I will be able to get used to and which will always just make me miss Shea.  But the total personal, aesthetic, psychological experience of watching a game at Citi Field seems to be different from the experience of a game at Shea.  I just have to see how things settle as the season wears on, as it gets warmer and as I get used to things, and everyone else gets used to things.  But we should neither be afraid to criticize nor be afraid to appreciate.  This is going to be a difficult process. Contrary to what you read in some places, Mets fans are not cry-babies and whiners. They are people who have cherished a certain experience in the past and have a right to expect an experience they can cherish in the future. Criticizing a state-of-the-art new stadium is not the same thing as stupidly boo-ing Oliver Perez for giving up a walk in the first inning of his second game of the season.

The Opening of Citi Field

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Tonight, the first Mets game will be played at Citi Field.  This will be the first home opener in years that I will not be able to attend.  I couldn’t bring myself to spend more than $250 for a ticket on StubHub and my life is such that a season ticket is not a good idea.  I will attend my first game at Citi Field on Wednesday, with my wife and daughter.   I bought Promenade Reserve tickets (Section 502, row 8, seats 15-17) for the very reasonable price of $23, directly from the Mets website.  Tonight I will be hunkering down in front of the TV.  I will be sorry not to be there, but I will be fascinated to see what is going to happen, what it is going to look like, what it is going to feel like.  Needless to say, I’ll share what I’m thinking and feeling.  This is a very big moment in many of our lives.

Just by the way, there is an interesting mention of my book on a website devoted to observing the state of the book industry.  Somebody on Facebook pointed out that Laura Axelrod, the woman who writes the site, was interested in knowing what people found interesting about baseball.  I tried to offer her an answer, and she was kind enough to listen.  By the way, if you’re a reader of this blog and you’re on Facebook, please feel free to “friend” me.