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Going to a ballgame is more like an excursion to Kennywood

Sunday, July 09, 2000

I went to a ballgame and an amusement park broke out. Or is it the other way around? I'm confused. The line is blurred. Indistinguishable. Obliterated. Now, we don't have ballgames. We have entertainment experiences.


Stan Savran is the co-host of SportsBeat on Fox Sports Pittsburgh.


For the price of admission, we are held captive, forced to endure dancing mascots and hot dog-flinging muskets and T-shirt bazookas. The objective was to watch a sporting event, which, if we're lucky, might produce memories of a lifetime. That, of course, is never a guarantee. But what we most certainly can count on is sensory overload. Which begs the question, "Did I leave the comfort of my couch and the convenience of my remote control to see batter vs: pitcher, wideout vs: corner, winger vs: goalie? Or did I spend my money and battle traffic to watch dancing hamburgers and laser shows on video screens?

Talk about your 180's. It used to be you had to actually go to a ballgame to experience a ballgame. Now to do that, you have to stay at home. If you want to avoid exploding monster computer chips on planet-sized scoreboards, which not only tell you when to cheer, why you should cheer, and for a little extra actually cheer for you, you have to stay home and watch the game on TV. Who would've ever thought watching commercials would be preferable? Who would have ever thought you'd turn to television folk for discretion and some emphasis on the sport part of a sporting event? When TV looks good by comparison to anything, there are many problems, and they are great.

Now we have strings and things, ceiling wax and other magic stuff. And, my dear Puff, we have Pirate ships. You'll never know how hard I tried to resist writing about the new playground vessel which will lurk above the outfield wall at PNC Park. You see, I'm at an age where I will go to great lengths to avoid being labeled as being that age. So if I come out and complain about a new-fangled anything, I come off as a humorless geezer, lost in the new century, trying to relive my youth if only I could remember when it was and what happened during it. I don't want to do that. Honest I don't. Good if there's going to be a Pirate playground hovering above Brian Giles' shoulder. But I freely confess to wondering why it's necessary.

Determined to avoid all sentences beginning with, "When I was a boy," when I was a boy, a teenager, a young man and whatever it is I am now, going to a ball game was self explanatory. I remember a time when the only ancillary entertainment was watching a drunk trip down the steps as he bobbed and weaved his way back to his seat. Or when they would set off fireworks when the home team hit a home run. Of course, these were the Cleveland Indians of the '50s and '60s, so that didn't happen often. But in our admittedly pathetic Neanderthal simplicity, we went to the ballgame and that was enough. Oh, your dad would catch your wandering eye every now and again. The right eye fixed on the hot dog guy, the left on the lookout for the cotton candy man. Back and forth they would go, like rhythmically following a hypnotist's timepiece. Until your Dad ended your moment of temporary insanity by growling softly, "We didn't come here to eat. Watch the game!" Asked and answered. Why did we come here? We came here to watch the game.

Now you're lucky if they let you do that. If they're not asking you a trivia question, they're asking you to pick what song you like best. They tell you when to cheer and how loudly. Packs of itinerant cameramen roam the stands, waiting to capture you with popcorn kernels stuck in your teeth for the amusement of those watching the scoreboard. Which is most everybody. Next time you go to a game, see how many are fixated on the scoreboard, even while there's action on the playing surface. They play screeching scratch-your-fingernail-across-a-chalkboard music, amplified loudly enough to wake Kurt Cobain. Does that make me a geezer?

All the while, you could have been at home, blissful in your ignorance, just watching the game. Now, me hardies, we're going to have a Pirate ship. No matter. I feel like I'm already walking the plank.

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