My House

August 24, 2003

Freshly frisked at security, elbowed out of both armrests,
kneecapped by the seat back in front of you: You might equate
three hours in a stadium seat with three hours of flying coach.
But that's an insult to the airlines, with their preshelled
peanuts, reclining seats and relatively unextortionate $5 beers.
The truth is, marooned in a middle seat at Shea Stadium, one
envies those on the airplanes overhead, watching Maid in
Manhattan instead of the Mets.

But then, simply looking at some stadia is an excruciating
experience. Take the Eyesore on Lake Shore, the new $600 million
redesign of Soldier Field, whose signature Greek colonnade now
fronts an enormous atrocity in glass. The result--Acropolis meets
Apocalypse--was recently named, by readers of the Chicago
Sun-Times, the city's most unsightly edifice, supplanting the
Jerry Springer green room.

Isn't it time, then, that ballparks were designed by--or at least
for--those who fund them? Which is to say, us. And so I offer
this blueprint for the perfect stadium. It will be less I.M. Pei
than I.P. Daily, with urinals tall enough to stand up in, like
those at a New York City tavern called Old Town Bar, whose
ancient porcelain pissers are, in essence, walk-in toilets.

The seats themselves will not be designed for a double amputee,
as they seem to be at Madison Square Garden, which ought to have,
at each entrance, a cardboard cutout of a four-foot Bozo and the
warning: YOU MUST BE SHORTER THAN THIS CLOWN TO SIT DOWN.

More legroom costs more money, so we'll do without other
"amenities." The Arizona Cardinals' new stadium, to open in 2006,
will have an expensive retractable playing field that can slide
out of the arena in one piece on railroad tracks. But that does
nothing to serve fans, unless the field is removed mid-game, with
the Cardinals still on it. In my stadium we'll ensure that
seat-mounted beverage holders actually hold beverages. Not long
ago I watched a man buy a bottled beer from a vendor and casually
place it in his seat's cup holder, only to watch the longneck Bud
free-fall to the floor, like a man down an elevator shaft.

Likewise, in the perfect stadium, no row would be longer than 10
seats. Too many games are now an endless parade of asses at eye
level, entering and exiting the row, until your face is filled
with more tail than Tom Arnold at a Red Lobster buffet.

To be sure, your view will be obstructed in my park, but by the
only retro feature worth installing: the occasional, oddly placed
pillar that forces a few fans, on deeply discounted tickets, to
puzzle out an entire baseball game based solely on the facial
expressions of the rightfielder.

Better still, as at Camden Yards, it ought to be possible to see
into the stadium from the street, but just well enough to
witness, free of charge, an eight-inch-wide swath of an entire
ball game, as if through the food slot in a solitary confinement
cell.

Unlike Camden Yards or Coors Field or Minute Maid Park, all in
gentrified warehouse districts downtown, my stadium is an island
in a sea of asphalt, with sufficient parking for 80,000 cars and
room to run 80-yard post patterns during pregame tailgates. This
is in homage to Dodger Stadium, which proves--Joni Mitchell be
damned--that paradise and parking lots need not be mutually
exclusive.

Sure, such lots necessitate a two-hour postgame vanhunt for one's
motor vehicle. But the only thing I can now recall of the 1990
World Series is searching, in the oceanic Oakland Coliseum
parking lot, for my white Ford Taurus in what proved to be a
whiteout of Tauruses. (The only solution was to let everyone else
leave, and take the only car remaining.)

Forget valet parking, centerfield hot tubs, luxury suites,
waitress service, seatside video and avocado rolls. Give me,
instead, glass-topped dugouts that will--like glass-bottomed
boats--reveal a secret world of untold wonders. It's been a
decade, and I've not yet forgotten the faces of two 10-year-olds
straining to peer into an empty Tigers dugout after a game and
awed by what they saw: a floor littered with loogies, chaws,
Dubble Bubble and snot rockets, prompting one of the boys to
whisper, as if seeing the face of God, "Whoa. Goobers."

By the way, bring your own food to my stadium. Our guards will
confiscate daggers, not Dagwoods. The Philadelphia Eagles banned
outside food at their new Lincoln Financial Field, denouncing
sandwiches as a security risk (and not, they insisted, as a drag
on sales of their own $6.50 cheese steaks).

"It is patently irresponsible in this day and age to question the
motives behind a policy driven by and recommended by security
experts," said Eagles president Joe Banner--fearing, perhaps, a
peanut-butter-and-gelignite sandwich.

After two weeks of public ridicule the Eagles relented, but not
before a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, testing sandwich
security, brazenly brought a hoagie into the White House, where a
guard said that sandwiches posed no threat to presidential safety.

Told that the Eagles felt otherwise, the guard replied, "Really?
I guess they want to sell more food."

B/W PHOTO: JEFFERY A. SALTER

Isn't it time that ballparks were designed by--or at least
for--those who fund them? Which is to say, us.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)