Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Wacky-Yet-Prudent Ballot Initiatives

As you would expect, I missed Chapter 3 of “Bonds On Bonds” last night because I just knew that it was NOT going to be Bobby Bonds, Jr. (Barry’s brother) paying tribute to Bobby Bonds, Sr. (Barry’s daddy), so …
Also, my doctor says I need less contrived and artificial “reality shows” in my diet, so … ummm, y’know … doctor’s orders.
Besides, the Birds and the Tribe were on the telly, so …

This definitely looks like the year for the Orioles.
That is, “the year that O’s fans make Angelos pay for his sins.”
Ol’ Fish-Faced Pete’s gonna have to rustle up more cases than usual in his litigious ways against the big-money tobacco and those hard-working asbestos producers.
The turnstiles at Camden Yards … they ain’t turnin’ like they used to.

The announced crowds during three gorgeous (weather-wise) days and evenings (Sun.-Mon.-Tues.) for games against quality opponents (the Angels and the Indians) have failed to crack 20,000, which may mean that the fans are finally sending a message to Angelos.
Here’s what that new message seems to be:
“Give us a new stadium!”

Nobody’s talking about it, but doesn’t the hidden agenda seem quite obvious (which, in a literal sense, doesn’t exactly make it “hidden,” does it?).
But, y'see, the baseball team from Cleveland coming to town provides an interesting parallel. After all, it was merely a decade ago when Baltimore and Cleveland rose to power as The MLB pulled itself out of The Strike of ’94.
It was a time of great nostalgia for the two cities, which, at that time, fostered a strong sisterhood -- that is, until it was declared null-and-void once Art Modell moved his Browns away from that metropolis by the lake and moved it to one by the ocean.
NFL transgressions aside, the mid- to late-‘90s represented a baseball renaissance in Baltimore and Cleveland which had been somewhat dormant for decades.
And, most of us tied that rekindling of MLB love to the christening of Oriole Park (which opened in ’92) and Jacobs Field (which opened in ’94).

Of course, a “winning formula” helps when you have a lineup which has either Alomar, Ripken and Palmeiro or Thome, Belle and Ramirez to go with strong pitching staffs.
But, we should remember that sometimes it's not about the quality of the product on the field as much as it is about the field itself.

To wit, when the Yankees posted their astonishing 116-46 record in ’98, they finished third in A.L. attendance that year behind the Orioles and the Indians.
So much for that mighty relic in the Bronx and the Bronx Bombers who dwell within it.

’98 was the fourth year in a row that the O’s topped the league in attendance – and, despite losing records during each of the seven seasons since, the O’s haven’t slipped out of the Top 5 in A.L. attendance.
Cleveland, meanwhile, had sellouts at The Jake for a record 455 home dates from June ’95 thru the first game of the ’01 season.
However, after leading the league in attendance in ’99 and ’00, the Tribe’s tumble in attendance began in ’01 (third) and ’02 (fifth) until the mighty fall-off to 12th (out of 14 teams) in each of the past three seasons.
Either Clevelanders aren’t keen on manager Eric Wedge’s version of “WedgieBall” – or maybe they simply weren’t thrilled that Jody Gerut (who?) was the top home run guy (with 22) and top RBI guy (with 75) for their 94-loss squad of two seasons ago.

Unlike Indian fans who bailed on their Mistake By The Lake, O’s fans remained true to their Birds.
Or did they?
Funny coincidence: I was in attendance (free tix from my boss) for the O’s FINAL home game of last season (vs. the Yanks) and I was in attendance (free tix from my wife’s client) for the O’s season opener at the Yards two weeks ago (vs. Team Sting Ray).
The running joke ‘round these parts is that the O’s ballpark serves as a satellite office for Yankees and Red Sox fans. So, while the stadium may “officially” seat 48,190, rest assured that sellouts during Yankee series are usually the result of 12,000 girls wearing #2 JETER t-shirts and 13,000 guys with man-crushes on Derek Jeter.

Now, while I don’t know if A.L. attendance is still calculated based on “tickets sold” and the N.L. is tallying its attendance in terms of “actual turnstile totals” – as was the way it was tabulated in the past – I do know this:
For the opener against Tampa Bay, the reported attendance of 46,986 for a 48,190-seat stadium was inaccurate.
I know this because as I was shuttling between Section 87 and Club Level Suite 14, it was quite noticeable that anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 seats were unfilled.

Ergo, 46,986 = "tickets sold" not "butts in the seats."

But, if it makes those no-shows feel any better, the 16 or 17 freebie skewers of tangy sausage which I helped myself to … first-rate all the way.
Let’s play two!

So, that’s where we stand: Getting a stadium initiative on the ballot so that the ballgame-attending voter base can get behind something worth believing in again.
New ballparks stimulate the local economy and they foster good will and serve as effective role models for our children.

And they hardly cost a thing.
In this era of military spending and over-taxation, it's high time that we stop dumping $$$ into government programs which simply don't work (such as publicly-funded K-thru-12 school systems) and join forces in laying the bricks and mortar which will provide new ballparks which our grandchildren and our grandchildren's grandchildren can enjoy during the heyday of global warming.

How this scenario can become a viable option for my beloved Phillies while they attempt to resuscitate an ’06 season which is slipping away fast, well ... that's the next stop for this Haystack hay ride ....

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