Exactly one year after we left it for the last time, I think I miss the enormity of the place most of all. It was big. I don't think I realized how big until I noticed how relatively small the new place is. You wouldn't think a humongous stadium would be something you'd miss in an era when intimacy is supposed to be prized. But I knew that when I was there I was somewhere.
I miss the grandeur, which I consider a different quality than sheer bigness. I miss the sense that I'm sitting before a grand stage, about to be party to something magnificent. Even though I understand what felt magnificent going in often wound up mundane coming out, I loved the anticipation. And I miss that.
I miss, in a way, not knowing where I was staring when I stared into the crowd. These days I can identify everything and everybody at a glance. There's no mystery to it. The transparency is nice, I suppose, but it's another reminder of how small everything feels. I didn't know, without counting off blocks of seats, which section was which. It was a little game I'd play with myself. “I was in Section 36 when Matt Franco singled off Mariano Rivera — if Section 48 is the last one, let me work my way back from there and see if I can find where I was sitting.” Silly, I know, but I did it now and then.
I miss linking the spots I found to the great games I saw. Of course I haven't seen any great games in the new place. None have been played.
I miss the symmetry. Symmetry went out of style the same time as bigness, but it just made so much more sense. If a ball was heading out, it was heading out; no guessing games regarding fence height and effect on play. If it was in the gap, the gap was ascertainable. I miss the honesty of the symmetry. 410 to center, 338 down the lines, 371 in the gaps…it was true every time.
I miss watching the game. There weren't distractions everywhere, though I admit I could decide not to be distracted if I really didn't want to be. I miss there being little temptation to get up and wander around, though I could decide not to get up and wander around if I really didn't want to. I miss the focus a symmetrical, few-frills facility filled with memories could give you, even on a lousy night.
I miss the sightlines. I don't think we ever appreciated the sightlines. Even before the new place, there was always this “it wasn't built exclusively for any one sport, therefore it isn't ideal for any” meme we all accepted as gospel. I realize now that was nonsense. If not ideal, it was suitable for following a ball and a fielder and a runner. The new place is not. I've sampled all kinds of seats in the place — titled seats, no less — and unless you hit the jackpot, it absolutely sucks for watching a baseball game. I miss taking for granted that I could watch the game pretty easily. From the back of Loge and Mezzanine you would lose sight of a fly ball. From the corners of the Upper Deck, you were watching ants at play. From down the lines on Field Level you could find yourself at a bit of a neck-craning loss. But ultimately you were, if not “on top of the action,” on top of the game. I'm surprised how much I don't see in the new place. I'm surprised how much I saw in the old place.
I miss the crowd as it was. I hate to admit it since quite often I couldn't stand the booing and the drunkenness and the forays into fighting, but without the booing and the drunkenness and the forays into fighting, it's missing something. Is it possible the 13,000 missing seats all belonged to the people you wouldn't want sitting near you yet were part of the tapestry of what made a ballgame a ballgame? Let's be clear: There are still idiots. It would be hard to gather the most modest sea of humanity and not have idiocy break out in some pocket, but the current lagoon doesn't have the flair it once did. I don't really miss the people who booed, drank and fought, but I miss, on some intangible level, their presence.
I miss there being a game and nothing else. I miss that except for the beer, bathroom and chow lines, there was nowhere else for people to be. I miss the game being the magnet that attracted people.
I miss the backdrop that was perfect scenery before it began to be obstructed by the new place. I miss that sense of place, that sense that we didn't have to be shielded from the outside world. We see some stuff now, but those feel like incidental, accidental sightings. I miss the integration of the foreground and the background.
I miss the ramps. Those were grand, communal exits. I miss how the ramps wound and the game that just concluded continued as long as you were winding your way down and around them. You were still talking and chanting and living the game. It stayed with you. It doesn't as much anymore.
I miss the letter-perfect scoreboard, no matter how imperfect its letters and lightbulbs made it sometimes. Everything you needed to know was always there. It's something that was set up beautifully at the beginning and it was something that worked wonderfully right to the end, save perhaps for some final scores.
I miss the color scheme. It was unapologetically tacky. It was us.
I miss the pathways in the middle of the levels. I miss reading the t-shirts and the uniform tops. I miss the signs and the banners carried forth. I miss being able to spot the vendors and calculating how long it would take their journey to reach my row. I miss that you could be getting up and leaving and still be watching the game.
I miss the network of runways, section after section, that revealed to you, as you walked through one, the shocking green grass below and the utter grandeur of the stage that awaited you. One minute you were on the cusp of a ballgame. Next minute, you were immersed in it. It wasn't dainty. It hit you right away.
I miss knowing I can, on a whim, show up at almost any time to a box office window, hand over a relatively small amount of money and get a perfectly representative ticket for three hours of enjoyment. I understand I can do something similar on a computer, with a credit card, with a touch more advance planning, but it's not the same.
I miss the name. I miss that it was quick and easy, one syllable that said it all. I miss that even without knowing what it stood for, it stood for us, for our team, for our experience. Once you found out the name belonged to somebody who moved mountains to make sure you had a team and a stadium to call your own, you felt even better about it. I miss the name and not having to think about it. I miss the name from when it wasn't a contrarian statement, from when it was just the name.
I miss its being. I regret that no matter how much of it I remember, my memories of it will inevitably get fuzzier. Its existence grows ever more remote from the present. I miss it existing in the present, being the place I go to.
Exactly one year after we left it for the last time, there's plenty I don't miss. I don't miss the distance from the subway to its nearest available entrance. I don't miss the escalators that broke down once per homestand. I don't miss the epic floods in and around the men's rooms. I don't miss the food that wasn't up to third grade cafeteria snuff. I don't miss the iron bars in the box seats. I don't miss the lack of lateral movement in those same sections. I don't miss the furtive cigarettes sneaked among the seated patrons long after that sort of thing was prohibited. I don't miss the vertigo in certain spots. I don't miss the lunatic policies that kept you with a ticket from anywhere else away from the Field Level. I don't miss the sense we were being left behind while everybody else's fans were moving ahead.
Then we moved ahead, and in many ways it was fine, even improved, but in many ways, the concept proved overrated. Progress wasn't what it was made out to be. I couldn't be convinced progress was producing for me a better experience than I received in the past. I felt pulled into a future I didn't ask for.
There was a moment this season when I couldn't have been more disconsolate about what the future had become. I sought solace in a DVD recording of the final game ever played in the old place. Before I was overwhelmed by the result of the game itself, I took in the bigness and the grandeur and the life that was in the old place. Upon that viewing, I made my mind up. If I could do it, I'd make the trade in a literal heartbeat. I'd trade the new place for the old place. No questions asked — just bring me back what I had, shortcomings and all. I had resisted this reaction for months, wanting to be fair and open to change and progress-oriented. But I was done with that.
I wanted the new place out of my life. I wanted the old place returned to me.
That was while I watched the DVD and sulked. The next night, upon my next visit to the new place (which, for something I didn't like, I sure found my way to a lot), I expected my remorse to envelop me. Yet it didn't. It felt OK that where I was now was where I was now. It's what was here and would be here going forward. The old place wasn't here. It was gone and remains so. I like to remember and explore the past, but living in it has never appealed to me. The old place was the past. I couldn't move back in. It sunk in that the new place, whatever flaws I found or perceived in it, was here to stay. I already knew that on every logical plane, but spiritually it took a while to click. I could let go of the old place at last.
Which doesn't mean I don't miss it.
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