Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dodging Dodger Stadium

Let me preface this post by saying that I am completely aware of these two things: this may somewhat seem like sour grapes, and many of these problems are likely the same at nearly every ballpark.

Last night marked the eighth straight year that I went to each Mets game of the season in Los Angeles and the streak will officially stop there; I have finally decided that I have had enough. Had they won one or two or three of the games, had Jerry Manuel not suddenly turn into the worst manager in baseball this week, my general mood might be better, but it wouldn't really affect the quality of the ballgame experience at Dodger Stadium.

For the first two games, we had very nice seats (right behind home plate in the second deck) but seemed both times to be stuck two rows in front of the one guy in the building that wouldn't shut up, got increasingly ruder, and had little or no clue what was actually happening. The odds of us actually finding the one guy there that night who was "that guy" are pretty slim, so it is safe to assume that "that guy" is basically in every section.

And they were nice seats...$100 face value, so while we did not have to deal with the brunt of the thug-element that has ruined Dodger Stadium, we still weren't completely shielded from it. And regardless of where you sit, you still have to walk to your car. I don't expect people to sit quietly and occasionally let off a dignified round of applause. But I expect to be left alone to enjoy the game. I expect to not have food, drinks, profanity and threats thrown at me. And I expect to not have to worry about my safety on the way out.

Wednesday night, I was insulated from these bad fans because I was lucky enough to sit in a suite. I heard a few playful taunts on the way into the stadium (I had a Mets jersey on) but nothing threatening or particularly annoying. Then I didn't hear a word from anyone all game long. It was really pleasant to go to a ball game, sit with a bunch of strangers rooting for the other team, and not feel like I should be worried about getting hit if the Mets scored. But the good feelings soured when I got to my car afterwards. Of the 20-or-so cars in the row I was parked in, 5 had been broken into during the game, including the one in front of mine, and the one behind it. Thankfully mine was spared.

"But aren't there a-holes at every stadium?" Of course there are. And while I have not been to every stadium, and have not sat in all areas of the ones I have been to, I have been to Safeco, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, The Big A, San Diego (Petco and the Murph), Arizona, Busch, Wrigley, Fenway, Camden, and Shea and perhaps only at Fenway were fans this obnoxious and abusive. People in Anaheim are just as obsessed with their team as Dodger fans are, but it is different there. The fans in San Diego are the same ones at Charger games acting like thug-Raider fans, but still the Padre games are fun.

Whether it is having food thrown at me, a soda hitting me in the head, constant swearing, taunts and threats, or just continuous annoying yelling pointed at me because I have the wrong jersey on, there seems to be some problem every game. I have even had my wife threatened by a guy in the parking lot because she had a Mets jersey on. Would all of this likely happen at other parks? Sure. Should I have to put up with it? Certainly not. And I get that the guy in the Mets jersey who stands up and turns around and yells at the Dodger crowd when the Mets score deserves a little abuse. He is asking for it. But I am not that guy.

When I got home from the game I had decided that I would never go to Mets game at Dodger Stadium again unless I was in a suite. Spoiled? Sure, but it is just the only place an opposing fan can feel safe. As for my car, I certainly can't take public transportation since the Dodgers' owner refuses to allow it in the parking would cut into his parking profits. Profits that are due in large part to his price hike two years ago to add more staff and security out there. But while the traffic flow is a little better than before, the security is only getting worse and worse.

The stadium itself is in a spectacular setting; nearly 50 years later, there are still few parks that can rival it for that. But a nice view is not enough to overcome the rest of the problems that come with ballgames at Dodger Stadium, some universal, some Dodger-specific: traffic, ticket prices, abusive fans, violence and break-ins in the parking lot, disgusting bathrooms with trough-urinals, the many seats that face the outfield, narrow and dark hallways and stairwells, and incredibly overpriced and unappetizing food (pardon the sacrilege, but Dodger Dogs are not good).

Sure this is all pretty whiny. Sure Dodger fans have the right to scream and cheer. And the Dodgers do post their "annoying fan hotline" number all over the place. But I also have the right to root for the other team and not feel threatened. I shouldn't have to have my finger on the "send" button on my cellphone all game long, waiting for someone to throw something at me.

My dad said last night as we were walking through the parking lot full of broken bottles, trash strewn around, cars full of people screaming out the windows, and careening around outside the actual lanes, that it was like being in a third-world country.

I wouldn't go on vacation in the "third-world," and I won't be visiting Chavez Ravine anytime soon either.

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