Novel idea -- baseball night at the baseball park
Wednesday night the crowd did the wave in the third inning. No half inning passes in silence: Cartoon tools and water heaters hop around bases or pitch and hit on the vast center field screen. Hot chicks in Braves shirts and little shorts exhort fans while a fat blond guy with a butt cut asks people from Florida or North Carolina or Stockbridge trivia questions. There’s an endless assault of corporate sponsored promotions, even one by a gambling casino. PA announcer Bill Bower screams at us about “our second baseman!!!!!”
Upper deck facades are forever electronically lit with advertisements.
If you’re at Turner Field, and I suspect it’s the same at most ballparks, you have to fight for your right to reflect. That’s too bad because part of baseball’s beauty lies in its pauses, its spaces. The anticipation of a critical full-count pitch, the seconds between the crack of the bat and the end of Andruw’s sprint across the green gaps – will he catch it? – the throw home from left field when you can watch ball and runner converge and thrill to the sweet approach of resolution.
These sensations are not unique to baseball among sports. It just has more of these gaps, and they are more essential in baseball. In jazz or writing, the space between notes, the words left out are often as important as what is there. Baseball allows for such spaces.
Yet today’s ball parks are entertainment extravaganzas doing their best to fill every space. If nature abhors a vacuum, 21st Century major league parks abhor contemplation. Should Bobby have left McBride in last inning? Who has time to consider that when there’s a Home Depot paint can race, a Napa cap shuffle, a Delta Air Lines Mini Cooper circling the field?
Let’s see – it’s the 8th inning, two outs, the Braves lead by a run with a full count on the other team’s best hitter. Do we whoop and holler? No need to think. Just look up and see if the Loud Security Systems ad is ordering us to “get loud.”
Sorry if I sound like Furman Bisher. (A curmudgeon’s curmudgeon for those not familiar with the octogenarian columnist.) I understand baseball must adapt. If teams still played all day games, most people could never go. The advent of the relief specialist has added layers of new strategy to the game. I’ve grown to sort of like the wild card and interleague play. I love the influx of Latino and Asian players. Little kids like hitting in cages and playing with people in cartoon character costumes. Older kids like drinking in a place that feels like a Buckhead bar. And team owners love the revenue.
I understand all that. But since fans have embraced players occasionally wearing old-timey uniforms, how about the Braves, or any other team, holding an annual retro promotion? A game with just organ music, no cartoon tool races, no screaming PA men nor corporate-sponsored cheers. A night of just baseball. Who knows, people might like it.