Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Game #16: The Great American Ballpark Experience

My story from Cincinnati surrounds the trademark food. Skyline Chili consists of a hearty, meaty bean-less chili, poured over a bed of spaghetti, with about a pound of grated cheese on top. With some onions and oyster crackers, you’ve got yourself a “4-way” chili that will indeed put you down for the count. And in my case, it certainly did. While I only finished between a third and a half of my portion, this mammoth plate of food had my stomach doing somersaults for the next few innings, and combined with the afternoon sun to encouraging more than a little bit of lethargy once I was finally starting to do a little better. This was probably a sign that the ballpark food and road-weariness was all catching up with me a little bit, which made the early start time, the chance to take a bit of a break later that day, and the injection of new big-city energy with Chicago just around the corner, all well needed.

The park itself, ostentatiously named the Great American Ballpark, was decent, but apart from a vaguely steam-boat-like construct in right field, was unfortunately rather short on unique character. It was vaguely reminiscent of the Jake, once again, and a perfectly decent place to watch a game, though my attention may have been a bit more riveted on trying to digest my chili.

Meanwhile, two thumbs down to the park designers for the Great American Ballpark logo, which carries no connection whatsoever to the Reds logo, script, or any other aspect of their marque, nor with anything else that I could figure out. A definite lesson here in the need to control your creatives.

The game itself seemed to follow the mid-west trend of the last couple of parks, as for quite a while, the offense again appeared to have gone AWOL. However, the oddly-late 4 PM start time seems to have been just what was needed, as once the day’s shadows started to grow long, some offense was finally to be found, with the home team Reds eventually beating up on the Padres by a score of 8-3. And while the park’s got a reputation of being a bit of a band-box, with home runs usually flying out at a remarkable rate, only Brian Giles had the right formula today, knocking two out, including one in the ninth that prevented Bobby Livingston, the Reds’ rookie starter, from getting his first complete game. Ah well…

Visible from the walkway on the outside of the park, but unfortunately not through the center-field gap, is the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, apparently something of a dry-run for the architect after which it was named, prior to his designing the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s quite good looking, and definitely reminiscent of the latter.

Finally, Reds fans have not at all forsaken favorite son Pete Rose, despite his ostracism from the baseball establishment. Having watched much of my baseball prior to this trip in San Francisco, and being fully in support of Barry Bonds’ recent achievements, it was interesting to see this support still very much in place, in a manner definitely reminiscent of what’s happening in the City by the Bay.

In other notes…

I had a pre-game maß of helles at the Hofbrauhaus. Yep, just like in Munich, but transplanted to, of all places, Kentucky. In fairness, there appears to be a sizeable German population in Cincinnati, so there is a rationale, but still, it seemed decidedly out of place. The beer wasn’t quite as good as at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, which in turn isn’t as good as many of the other Bavarian beers, but it was a nice way to warm up for the game all the same.

I saw a billboard for the “Creation Museum” on the way into town. It was all I could do not to pull over to check it out, just for amusement factor.

Generally speaking, a fair bit of downtown Cincinnati appeared fairly bleak, as if industry was having a hard time keeping going. However, doing a bit more driving around, especially including the areas of Covington and Newport just across the river into Kentucky, revealed that there definitely are some interesting areas, and some degree of positive social activity. I actually parked on the KY side and walked across the river, paying the remarkably reasonable sum of $3. I had to ask her several times whether that was an hourly rate or a half-hourly rate before finally realizing that it was all-in. Ah, Kentucky. Mind you, I would prove to make up for that and more in Chicago and Toronto.