Thursday, April 4, 2013

Corporatized Concrete and Metal

In a tribute to Dodger Stadium, Jay Caspian Kang goes on a beautiful rant about the modern, "nostalgic" ballparks:
Since 1992, when Camden Yards in Baltimore ushered in a new era of stadium design, nearly every ballpark in America has been built under the same principle — old-timey knickknacks like manual scoreboards get stapled onto a gleaming hulk of scalable, corporatized concrete and metal because nostalgia is a powerful purchasing device and drives fans to buy all sorts of useless stuff, from miniature bats to the now-$8 hot dogs they ate when they were kids. This is not to say that every ballpark built in the past 20 years is some horrific monstrosity that callously manipulates our most tender memories, but I do think we pay a psychic toll whenever we access nostalgia through a modern, corporatized avenue. I still remember little details from nearly every Red Sox game my father took me to when I was a child. I remember the smell of the bathrooms, the color of the cement that held up the grandstands, and, of course, the dirty shade of green that has welcomed generations of fans to Fenway Park. If they built a new Fenway with a new Citgo sign that looked exactly like the old one and they sprayed old piss scent all over the bathrooms, I would most likely still recall those same childhood details, but they would have to travel a longer, more wearying distance. And part of me would always hate the new Citgo sign and the manufactured piss scent and the fake green on the outfield walls.
When I lived in New York, my friend Eric and I went to dozens of Mets day games at Shea Stadium.The Mets were unreasonably bad back then, trotting out some combination of Cliff Floyd, Mike Piazza, and a bunch of Triple-A players. But Shea Stadium was a comfy old heap that fit the team's personality. Citi Field, which opened in 2009, is a different sort of dump: the most cynical ballpark in the major leagues, complete with a Jackie Robinson rotunda (Robinson, of course, never played for the Mets), silly constructions like "the Great Wall of Flushing" and the Shea Bridge, a faux-industrial walkway modeled off the Hell Gate Bridge that connects Astoria and Randall's Island. There is a history of New York in Citi Field, but the same could be said about the New York-New York Casino in Las Vegas. When you go to a Mets game now, you're not so much reminded of the past or Shea Stadium as much as you're reminded of corporate strategy. It's a horrible place.
I love the part about a part of me would always hate the new Citgo sign and the manufactured piss scent and the fake green on the outfield walls.  Irrational hate is one of my favorite emotions.  Especially irrational hate about new things.  As far as the worst feature of any new ball parks, I vote for the stupid mound (which is supposed to pay tribute to the terrace in Crosley Field) in centerfield at, what is it now, Minute Maid Park ?  That and the new slide for Bernie Brewer that doesn't end in a stein of fake beer.  Does anybody have any other suggestions?

Compare and contrast:

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