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Another Portland Blog

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Root, root, root for another town's team

I've been staring at "bring major league baseball to Portland" bumperstickers at stoplights around town for years. Over the weekend I headed up to Seattle to see if the whole thing is worth the hundreds of millions of dollars it would take to bring an MLB franchise to the Rose City.

This wasn't the first time I've set foot in a big time ballpark. I visited Yankee Stadium on a blustery September day back in 2003. The seventh inning stretch isn't that much fun when you're stone cold sober in off and on again drizzle on a chilly afternoon. I haven't been a baseball fan since I was pegged in the head by a pitch in Little League. I think the game could be greatly improved by subtracting innings, adding a time limit between pitches and a hoop in the middle of the outfield. If a slugger can land a ball through the hoop? Automatic grand slam.

To be honest, I went into Safeco Field not to watch Ichiro Suzuki get a base hit but rather to gawk at the crowd and suck down Micro Dots in between gulps of Budweiser in a stadium that looks like the Technodrome. Looking over the field towards Seahawks Stadium and the Seattle skyline inspires thoughts like, "Holy moly! It's the year 2006 and this place looks like something out of The Fifth Element. We're living in the future, man!"

After dark, with the spires of the stadium next door glowing purple and the occasional Amtrak blasting past with its horn blaring, the whole setup really is a sight to behold. The past (beloved national pastime, trains) and the future (super sonic stadium, "ice cream of the future") merge to form something that can only described as "sport-i-rific." I guess "bitchin'" could also work.

The place was mostly packed with families but, after we found our seats taken by a guy with three tots, we found ourselves ten rows closer to the field behind a row of teens that looked like they'd just stepped out of an episode of The OC. Completely oblivious to the game and the kids around them, they kept things interesting by launching into a six inning discussion of their sex lives. An excerpt (no I'm not making this up):

Chunky Girl in an Ironic T-Shirt: "I'm a lesbian and my girlfriend is just so, oh my gawd!"

Other Girl: "Tell them what you told me."

Chunky Girl in an Ironic T-Shirt: "She could totally turn any straight woman into a raging dyke. The things she can do with her tongue!"

Guy Who Looked Sort of Like Damon Albarn: "I could turn her into a raging straight chick."

Chunky Girl in an Ironic T-Shirt: "She only likes lez-be-ans."

Guy Who Looked Sort of Like Damon Albarn: "I *am* a lez-be-an. I love vaginas! A lesbaterian trapped in the body of me, that's, uh, me."

I guess he never saw Chasing Amy. Not to be outdone, we attempted to keep our chatter filled with as many obscenities as possible while covering as much of the ground around us in peanut shells as possible. I never did find out what a "lesbaterian" is. Lousy brats.

Sometime during the 8th inning, the Mariners' mascot, a moose, popped up in the 300 level. On a monitor over the field, the crowd was ordered to start bouncing up and down to excerpts from House of Pain's "Jump Around." Half the stadium obliged. I wonder what a time-traveling Ben Franklin, a caveman or Marie Antoinette would make of thousands of full grown adults in sports jerseys jumping in synchronicity during twilight, all of them in a staidum that would blow Jules Verne's mind, most of them drunk, all of them controlled by the whims of a man in a cartoon moose uniform. Out of context, this sort of thing is pretty frickin' weird.

After the game, we wandered around watching the traffic die down outside and noting the surprising amount of Japanese food the concessions sell. Fans can buy ramen, saki and "Ichi-roll" sushi rolls along with traditional peanuts and domestic brews. A large family in the stands waived a banner covered in Kanji every time Ichiro stepped up to bat. No telling if they had flown in from overseas for the express purpose of cheering him on or if they were locals that do this sort of thing all the time.

Near a bathroom on the first deck I spotted a sign mounted to the wall with a list of rules. We took note of all the ones we broke.

Using foul language? Check.

Heckling the players? Check.

Disrupting the family atmosphere? Check.

Sitting in seats other than our own? Check.

I'm sad to report that our tepid misbehavior paled in comparison to the teens sitting behind us. I guess I could have bought them beer in order to add to the list of our transgressions but I didn't need that on my conscious or the $500 fine that comes with getting caught contributing to the delinquency of minor. As we checked them off, a security guard snuck up and told us to leave. Sorry to gloat about our pathetic attempts to tarnish/enjoy this fancy-pants ballpark you've got here, sir. I'll take my business back to PGE Park, where they don't mind it so much when the crowd chants things like "fuck you, asshole" or tosses around smoke bombs.

Oh, yeah, the Mariners won over the Padres 6 - 3, I think. Kenji Johjima hit a homerun, that much I can confirm. The Mariners Moose also celebrated the win by declaring home plate his own sovereign nation (see above).

If proponents of bringing baseball to Portland are serious, I hope they plan on building the stadium with a view of downtown Portland. Some lazer lights, a few thousand fog machines and dozen people in animal outfits would also be greatly appreciated. And rules that expressly allow smoke bombs. It's not like anyone goes to these things to watch the actual game, right?

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