Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Game #26: Beat LA! Beat LA!

While I’ve never explicitly stated it on this blog, I had set myself a rule to cheer for the home team at every park, as a way of more fully experiencing the atmosphere and environment of each location. But of course, that couldn’t be true everywhere, and LA was very much the exception. As a Giants fan, the concept of cheering for the Dodgers, or rather, of doing anything other than lustily booing them, was clearly a non-starter, so I decked myself out in Giants orange, braced myself, and headed into what very much felt like enemy territory.

The stadium itself was exactly that, a large, concrete, and fully symmetric stadium. It was most reminiscent of Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, but without any of the latter’s charm or class. The outfield provided a nice view of hills, horribly scarred by a Dodger-oriented “Think Blue” sign in the style of the Hollywood sign, and there were palm trees placed immediately beyond the edge of the park. Beyond that, the only unique characteristic was the bright pastel color scheme on the seating, which evoked memories of decades-ago LA. While sight lines were decent throughout, the lack of character or aesthetic appeal provided a setting particularly appropriate for the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, there didn’t appear to be any filter placed on the sort of people let into the ballpark. This was evident since the park was lousy with people afflicted with that most tragic of conditions: Dodger fans. In Northern California, these unfortunate souls are kindly shown the way towards trained medical professionals who can give them help, either by throwing food at them to indicate a path towards the closest facility, by offering polite words of encouragement about hot vacation spots they might consider, or by explaining to them what possible thumb-related habits the Dodgers may have had as children. But here in LA, they were inexplicably allowed to wander freely through the stadium. Baffling.

At least their busy schedules weren’t overly inconvenienced by the game. Most fans arrived right on schedule just as the 3rd inning was finishing, and left with plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep by heading for the exits at the start of the 7th. Here’s a picture of the stands as they stood at first pitch:

Ok, ok… so that might not have been entirely true. Here’s a true view of the 1st pitch, mid-5th, and top-9th crowds. Judge for yourself:

There was a strong class system that had been created between stadium sections. The Dodgers provided no access to decks other than the one your ticket is for. This has been true at a couple of other stadiums (Shea, Comiskey), but was nowhere as explicit as it was here, in that each tier had a separate stadium entrance, and climbing up or down between levels was meant to be done before entering the stadium gates themselves. With a Loge ticket, I was able to see a bit of the View level before heading down, but there wasn’t any chance of my getting onto the Field level, even if just for batting practice.

Down at field level, there were also truly distinct boxes among general seating. These were even further differentiated than the bars previously witnessed at Shea and Yankee Stadium, and looked to be a way to create private enclosures right down at field level.

Ok, all jesting aside – there were two moderately positive points. First, having seen Jackie Robinson’s 42 retired at 25 other stadiums already (it’s been officially retired by the entire league), it was still rather fitting to see the original, for the team for which he played.

Also, this was Korean Community Night, complete with a few activities before the game showcasing the Korean Community. One of the acts was a Korean rock band, who performed a song shortly before the start of the game. Former Red Sox (yay) and current Dodger (boo) pitcher Derek Lowe clearly enjoyed the performance, as he was strumming the air guitar between each of his warm-up pitches, a fact that was fairly entertaining to see..

The game was disappointing. The fact that the Dodgers were playing the Nationals, one of the worst teams in the league, was a concern, though the Dodgers’ evening game in NY the night before meant that they were likely fatigued coming into the game. The Nats even managed to come from behind to take a 4-2 lead at one point. However, in 5 of the first 6 innings, the Nats put the Dodgers’ lead-off hitter on base, a fact that eventually came around to bite them.

The food options weren’t particularly impressive either. The famed Dodger Dog, touted throughout the park as grilled after a misguided decision to forego the grilling several years ago, may well have been grilled at one point, but by the time you could buy them, they’d been sitting in a pile, wrapped in foil, under a heat lamp, for quite a while. Not at all impressive. And the Beers of the World stand apparently qualified for that status due to the presence of 1) Corona, and 2) Heineken. Yikes.

I’d attempted to head off this by getting a hot dog at Pink’s, a famous Hollywood institution. My Brooklyn Pastrami & Swiss Cheese dog does in fact have a hot dog under there somewhere, but it, too, was disappointing.

Elsewhere in LA…

Having commented on billboards in the South, it’s only fair that I tip my cap to that most LA of billboards, witnessed on the drive on the way into town: The copy: “Look your best”, next to a smiling woman advertising… yep… breast enhancement. Meanwhile, I also spent about 10 minutes at one point trying to figure out what it was about a guy sitting a few rows in front of me that looked so LA until it suddenly dawned on me that he had an unnatural smoothness at the corner of his eyes where, from his age and appearance, you might have expected to see some wrinkles. The wonders of botox.

Meanwhile, I spent my day wandering through the human zoo that is Venice Beach, and the more civilized Santa Monica, followed by a quick drive through Hollywood. Good fun, and definitely unique.

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