Monday, July 2, 2007

RFK-- Stadium Arcadium

You may have noticed that Capitol Hill Bar Review hasn’t posted much for awhile. In the meantime, we’ve been inundated with email from thousands of readers wanting to know what gives and demanding new posts.

Armless Jane: “Are you guys on the wagon or something? WTF?”

Saucy Chaucer: “Has CHBR lost its Rage to Live?”

Feckless Finnegan: “I swear to you. I am perched on the edge of my balcony. If you guys don’t post again by June 26th, I’ll jump.”

Well, with apologies to Finny’s mum, it so happens that we’ve been spending a reasonable amount of time drinking beer in RFK stadium since our last post. Bouillonnui is a bit of a Tigers fan, and Rowdy is down for basically anything that involves baseball and/or nachos, so we wound up watching the entire Detroit/Washington series. (Quick note: If you, by some strangeness of character or act of God, have become a Nationals fan in the last couple of years, you might want to stop reading now because this story won’t end well for you.)

Just before Game 1 of the series, we grabbed some dinner and margaritas at La Lomita on 13th and Penn. The Bouillonnui/Detroit contingent was large—Papallionnui and Mamallionnui had actually driven down from Michigan to watch the series with several other family members in tow.

There’s always something slightly intoxicating about walking into a major league baseball stadium on game-day. Don’t get me wrong. Watching a game at RFK is nothing like seeing a game in old Tiger stadium, Fenway Park, or Camden Yards, but it can still give you a little tingle. What grabs you first is the sound—the slow roar that emanates from the crowd interspersed with the looping cries of the vendors. Then you look around. There is beer everywhere. There are hotdogs and nachos and pretzels, and as you walk down the corridor looking for your seating section, you catch glimpses of the field, the green carpet of Bermuda grass trimmed tight like a fresh military haircut.

I have these moments when I forget that America is the greatest country in the world. It’s natural, I suppose, to have thoughts like “Is it really ok that we’ve dropped thousands of tons of depleted uranium munitions on Iraq?” or “Is this really the ‘freest’ country in the world? I bet I could hold up a ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ sign in Sweden.” Well, there are two things that render those thoughts meaningless—one is March Madness; the other is the elation of walking into a baseball stadium in mid-summer. And I can promise you all that as long as those two American traditions remain intact, the terrorists will never win.

We found our seats near the middle point of the lower section on the first base side and sat next to a couple of middle-aged, mustachioed Dominicans who spoke lazy, Caribbean Spanish. It was hot, about 96, and later, when I arrived home, I would take one look at my sweaty, matted hair, and shave it all off.

Now, beer at baseball games has never been known to be too cheap, and RFK is certainly no exception. However, you can get a reasonable amount of bling-bang for your buck if you hit up the Guinness/Harp stand. I mean, a Guinness will run you around $6 in most D.C. bars these days. You can get one at RFK for $6.50 so you don’t exactly feel like you got sodomized on the deal.

Here is the skinny, baseball-wise:

· Tigers came to town for interleague play with a chance to move into first place ahead of the Indians.
· The Nationals suck and have sucked all season.
· Detroit’s Magglio Ordoñez is flat-out redunculous this year. Right now, you could throw a chick-pea anywhere near the plate and he’d hit it for an opposite field double. (see Rowdy’s post-game phonecall with his Pa below)

Rowdy: Hey Pa, what’s up? I just got back from the baseball game.

Pa: How’s Detroit look?

Rowdy: Indestructible, but they were playing the Nats…

Pa: Ordoñez get any hits?

Rowdy: You tryin to be funny? He went 7 for 10 in the series.

Pa: Wow, he’s batting like .350 isn’t he?

Rowdy: Try .382

Pa: Dear God.

· Tigers swept the series and scored 32 runs in 3 games.

A particularly pathetic play occurred midway through the top of the 5th inning in the series finale that I feel I must mention. Detroit’s Brandon Inge hit a ground ball to Nats shortstop Cristian Guzman who, instead of getting in front of the ball, bending his knees, and trapping it in his glove with both hands, decided to lazily bend over at the waist and make a one handed grab at it without moving his feet toward the ball at all. He bobbled it, was charged with an error, and allowed Inge, to take first base. Inge later scored.

It was, perhaps, the most insultingly lazy play I have ever seen attempted by a major league short-stop, and a slap in the face to all of Washington. I would’ve been pissed if the shortstop on my little league team had pulled a stunt like that, and my little league shortstop wasn’t being paid $4.2 million dollars a year. Not to mention that here we are in a city chalk-full of problems that need urgent attention and we’re about to spend our tax dollars on a new, $611 million baseball stadium, so you’ll have to excuse me if I find it F-ing incredible when Guzman decides it’s too much of a bother to move his fat ass two steps to the left to get in front of a ground ball. That’s a show of disrespect to the entire city. Also, Guzman may not have heard any of the curses I threw in his direction from the upper deck of center field, but I like to think they had something to do with his recent thumb injury.

By invoking the outlandish cost of the new stadium in the previous paragraph, I don’t mean to come off anti-baseball, because I’m anything but. What I basically object to about the new stadium is the swankiness of it all. The new stadium is clearly designed to cater to the wealthy, and given the diversion of public funds into it, it is bad form to spend so much money on things like “luxury suites” that will almost certainly be gobbled up by rich lobbying firms. The one thing that will make me puke up my ballpark frank at the game is watching a pharmaceutical lobbyist in the luxury box rub some congressman’s ass while Ryan Zimmerman strikes out for the 3rd consecutive time. (speaking of Zimm, MLB needs to put some theme music rules in place. Should Zimm really be able to play “This is Why I’m Hot” every time he steps up to the plate when he’s batting .245? Get on that, Selig. Might be a good distraction from Balco et al.)

On a slightly different note, I gots several lefty friends who reference certain intellectuals (Chomsky) out there who say sports serve to re-direct the energies and attentions of the public away from political realities, and towards meaningless events that feed into primitive gladiatorial pleasures and contribute to a false consciousness that positions subjects of the same political class against one another. They aren’t necessarily wrong, but they commit the same error of omission that many Marxists and folks on the left commit—they fail to acknowledge and properly account for the symbolic side of social existence. It's such a terribly unimaginative position to take, and what I would say to Chomsky is this: Do sports not also serve a valid, theatrical function in our world?

Each game is densely laden with plots and subplots. Protagonists triumph and fail due to combinations of natural ability, character, and chance; and all you can think to say is “sports are a meaningless distraction”? Ummm... Since when isn’t all of life a meaningless distraction? The next thing you know you’ll say we shouldn’t read novels because they’re just fake stories meant to distract all the rest of us from being just like you. Thanks for your concern, Noam, but only an unimaginative dullard could think that professional sports can’t be more than an empty distraction. I shall keep watching baseball, anti-capitalist sympathies intact. And while I'm at it, I think I'll have a few beers and some nachos.

-Rowdy Chowder


chbarreview said...

Yes, baseball came to this city fraught with problems and troubling contingencies. One could even venture that the whole thing will function as a de facto use of public funds to clean out a large swath of Anacostia with taxpayer money in order to prime it for new development and gentrification. Naturally, that means the Stadium wil have the effect of making the city richer and whiter. But of course with baseball, such a process is made easier because certain bowtie wearing ex-mayors can in effect say "It's not that we're using taxpayer funds to clear out Anacostia and make way for rich people, it's that we're bringing you a baseball team." I personally was against building the new stadium, but now it's happening, and the only thing to do is to continue pushing for the team to be as inclusive as possible.

Andrew said...

i think none of the money for the stadium is coming out of the public coffers, it's all bonds and an extra (and small) business tax. cool blog by the way.

chbarreview said...

since we have two businesses, that tax affects us.

chbarreview said...

also, everyone knows these "extra taxes" are just extra shells to hide things under til the next administration takes over.