09 April 2008

Come for the food, stay for the baseball

As both local teams have ratcheted down on-field expectations this season, they've focused on a different means of getting folks out to the old ballyard - the food. The entire first week of Giants broadcasts have been full of plugs about new meal and dessert choices. One particularly brutal scene was earlier this week, when Jon Miller and Dave Flemming were nearly buried alive by dishes of strawberry shortcake when that particular subject came up.

The A's haven't been any better. They're pushing the all-you-can-eat section like it's the next great prescription drug. And during the radio booth's recent sampling of Kinder's barbecue, it seemed like an entire inning of play-by-play was lost. I can only hope that now the teams have the message out they won't have to needlessly flog the public with it. Some of us are just trying to listen to or watch a ballgame, y'know?

Then again, there are even better reasons to go to a game that have little to do with consumption. On Sunday I sat in the RF bleachers, Section 147. The game was well-pitched, the setting pleasant, the crowd rather sparse - except for the bleachers. On certain days when the bleachers are packed and you have the right people there, each of those little upper bleacher sections becomes a neighborhood. Yes, that same neighborhood feel that stadium designers ascribe to is already there. It's a design accident, really. Football stands these days are designed to prevent views of the field from the concourse. Instead they build up more seating rows right up to the next level of seats/suites. Given the right conditions, one of these sections turns into a happy little fan ecosystem, like a sunken ship will turn into a new reef.

So there we were, a bunch of strangers enjoying a game, some Indians fans, a maligned BoSox fan, some families. A couple of tikes were going up and down the aisle. Suddenly a fan at the back gave one of the kids a dollar. The child proceeded to do the robot, which thoroughly entertained everyone in the section. He did it again for others. Everyone laughed, many pictures were taken, all went home with smiles on their faces (even though the A's lost). I didn't see anyone with takeaway boxes from Kinder's. Few knew the names of the players on the field. It didn't matter. That's not to say that this phenomenon happens all the time or even frequently. Most weeknights those seats aren't filled. If it happened more often more would know about it. And more would go.

It's my hope that the A's and 360 recognize that the neighborhood concept doesn't occur just because you design a stadium a certain way. It takes certain fans, perhaps some decent weather, and a good ballgame. It's not something you can bottle.

One other thing disturbed my about Sunday. It appeared that an effort to start the Wave came from the LF bleachers. WTF? BleacherDave?