A Stadium In Need Of Replacement…

I do not advocate spending taxpayer money on stadiums/arenas for sports teams or sporting events like the Olympics. Having said that, The Coliseum in Oakland makes a cogent case for the need for a new stadium there. That facility famously backed up raw sewage into the locker rooms more than once; last night part of the left field wall fell down after an outfielder bumped into it tracking down a base hit. The game was delayed while a grounds crew went onto the field and reassembled the left field wall.

Folks, this facility is not the home of some bottom-feeding minor league team; the game last night that was delayed while people reassembled the freaking wall was a game between the Oakland A’s and the LA Angels. As a point of reference, the Oakland Raiders will also play 8 games in this venue over the next 4 months. This facility is an embarrassment to Oakland – not an easy status to accomplish – and it needs either serious renovation or replacement. Or, the alternative would be for both of those teams to go somewhere else.

The Oakland Coliseum – currently called the O.co Coliseum – is not in significantly better condition than the Roman Coliseum.

While on the subject of baseball, it certainly appears that the Chicago Cubs are poised to shed their ”identity” as lovable losers over the next couple of years. The Cubs are playoff bound this year barring a catastrophic collapse and they are a team of young players who project to improve in the near future. The only quibble you might have with that last statement is that their starting rotation is not full of young pitchers. However, I would counter that Dan Harren at age 34 is the only “old-timer” in the group; the starters may not be “Young Turks”, but they are not “geezers” either.

A small part of the improvement for the Cubbies comes from a trade made by Cubs’ GM, Theo Epstein at the trade deadline last year. He sent starter Jeff Samardija to the A’s along with starter Jason Hammel to acquire Addison Russell and two other prospects. Hammel turned out to be a “rental” for the A’s because he went back to the Cubs as a free agent over the winter. Russell has been a fixture at second base for the Cubs at age 21 while the A’s gleaned three players who have been OK for them this year in exchange for Samardija over the winter. In all of that shuffling, Addison Russell looks to be most valuable asset.

Oh, and by the way, acquiring Joe Maddon over the winter to run the club on the field was another good move by Epstein. Maddon has shown in the past that he can get a young team to believe that they can win now and not necessarily have to wait for the future to arrive. He seems to be doing just that with the Cubs again this year.

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had this item in a recent column:

“DEBATABLE: I don’t know what to think about the calls – often from big-league players – for protective netting down the first- and third-base lines. Is MLB leaving its fans at too great a risk from laser-like foul balls, inviting serious injury or worse? Or are people overreacting to rare, but publicized incidents? Would extending the netting detract from the fan experience? Maybe. But some of the most coveted seats are behind the home plate screen. An alternative: Big-league clubs could make every game ‘Fan Batting Helmet Night.’”

This is another debate where there seems to be little likelihood of changing the minds of the partisans on either side of the argument. The problem with the “debate” here is that the incidents are indeed rare but at the same time some of the incidents are extremely severe. It is sort of like flying on an airplane. They do not crash very often – but when they do the results are horrible and the crash is covered 24/7 on CNN for at least a week to assure that the maximum number of people are exposed to the possibility of this rare but horrific circumstance.

I would like to suggest however an underlying problem in baseball parks that can only serve to make these rare occurrences slightly more commonplace. If you go to a ballpark these days – or if you look past the players on the field to watch some of the fans in the seats when you watch a game on TV – you will see a significant fraction of the fans sitting in those “vulnerable seats” who are not paying even the slightest bit of attention to the game. At any given time, there are hundreds of fans who are intently focused on their telephones or their tablets. Here is something that is not debatable:

    If a fan is not looking at the game when a foul ball or a broken bat heads in his/her direction, that fan is significantly less likely to be able to get out of the way of the flying object heading his/her way.

This is not intended to be a diatribe about how cellphones have ruined society. This is an observation that some people can be so focused on checking their e-mail and texting and posting photos on social media that they are virtually oblivious to things going on around them. Moreover, if they go into the state of oblivion at a baseball game, they increase their risk of injury from things headed into the stands. Netting down the first and third base lines will cut down the number of flying objects that make it to the stands but it will only serve to make the intersection of a line drive and the skull of a fan more rare; it will not make such an intersection less severe.

A more effective solution would be to jam the signals of all cell phones and tablets inside the stadium so that people cannot bury their faces into a small screen to chat with their friends who did not care enough about this game to join that fan in attendance. The chances of that happening are about as likely as professional synchronized swimming becoming America’s #1 sport.

Finally, here is an observation by Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“I’m having withdrawal with the Little League World Series coming to an end. When does ESPN televise the T-Ball World Series?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

7 thoughts on “A Stadium In Need Of Replacement…”

  1. I think the folks at Turner Field could argue that there are risks in every stadium that are not related to line drives.

  2. Here’s an idea. If you air mail your bat into the stands:

    1. You are automatically out.
    2. That bat no longer belongs to you.

    I’m sure #1 would Compromise the Integrity of The Game, so of course that would never grow legs, but I am of the opinion that if you launch three pounds of wood into a crowd of people, you do not deserve to have it confiscated by stadium personnel and returned to you.

  3. Hey SC,

    Here’s the problem. The cost of seats have become so expensive that so many of those people sitting in the best (and most costly box seats) are not baseball fans. They’re sitting in those seats because the were given them as freebies from a company/ corporation/ attorney/ professional/ retail store/ sponsor that paid big bucks for those seats. Thus, not really being baseball fans, their attention soon wanes and they spend the next couple hours drinking free beers, chatting with their friends, or texting and surfing the internet on their smartphones.

    So, while the best seats are filled with people who really don’t care about the game going on in front of them, the true fans are sitting in the upper deck with the family for whom they shelled out over $400 for the outing at the stadium they can only afford to do once a year.

    That’s what’s wrong with baseball. And that’s what’s going to create apathy and kill sports in general.

    1. Doug 2:

      I agree completely with your point about fans who have no real interest in the game in front of them being in the “prime seats”.

      However, the phenomenon of fans paying as much attention to their phones as they do to the game at hand extends up to the cheap seats. When I go to baseball games, I rarely shell out the cost of those seats where I can reach out and touch the players/managers asw they enter/exit the dugout. Nonetheless, I sit amongst folks who are more interested in taking pictures of themselves and their buds and then posting those pics on social media than they are in the game. And I was at a game where a young lady seated about three seats to my right got hit by a foul ball because she was not looking at the field. [She was not injured although she was more than a bit frightened.]

      The implications of pricing families out of stadiums to see games will indeed have an impact on sports – and the impact will not be positive.

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