October calls for serious measures, and last week my friends and I, displaced Red Sox fans, had no qualms about ditching our jobs and significant others to attend the American League Division series. But for two days we did feel the shame of being in Anaheim, the Mickey Mouse of major-league cities.
The lingering Disneyfication of Edison International Field, with its Flintstones rock sculpture in center field and cheesy fireworks, has disgraced baseball for years. The focus on video displays and lame rock music is an unwelcome distraction in any park; in Anaheim, it feels like a giant birthday party for 44,000 7-year-olds.
Yet with Curt Schilling pitching for the Sox, our spirits and our hopes were high. The cosmos seemed aligned. The first sign was when we eschewed scalpers for the ticket booth. To our amazement, we scored unclaimed box seats at $65 a pop. How did you swing that? my father wanted to know when I called him during batting practice. I could barely figure it out myself. No fan I know would pass up playoff seats behind first base not even to a day game.
Despite the food-court vibe of their stadium, the Angels are respected for their ability and guts. Last week they showed little of either, mostly playing down to the level of their fans attention span. Team owner Arte Moreno is known for keeping his nose out of baseball decisions. Maybe he should reconsider. Or at least take a serious look at the atmosphere in Anaheim. The Angels play before red-clad, suburban boobs who act as if they are at a theme park instead of a major-league stadium inhabited by former World Series champions. Obsessed with a jacked-up Monkey and with banging blow-up, tube-shaped plastic balloons together to make a cacophonous racket, Angels fans, and pretty much everything about baseball in Anaheim, scream lightweight or pep rally.
Fans calling in to AM Radio 710 after a crushing 9-3 loss for the Angels wondered:
Where were the thunder sticks? The fans didnt make enough noise.
Why werent more people crossing their thunder sticks to make an X when David Eckstein was at bat?
Is it me, or did we not see enough of the Rally Monkey today?
No callers questioned if Vladimir Guerrero was ever going to take a pitch. Few challenged the use of usually versatile Chone Figgins at third base, despite costly fielding errors. Even old news, such as the suspension of star outfielder Jose Guillen, seemingly was of no import.
Game 2 proved that in Anaheim nighttime is the right time unless youre standing ticketless under a giant helmet for two hours watching pseudoball fans arrive smelling of cologne and car freshener. My friend Tim and I had gone back to the ticket booth once we saw scalpers asking $150 for $15 tickets. This time, though, the line for same-day or unclaimed tickets was long, and barely moving. Security guards insisted we get in it or get off the property. That gave us time to size up the scene, and our own humiliation, as we stood among the other poor schmucks who were at the mercy of Angel management, which released about three tickets every 10 minutes for the next three hours.
Sporting events involve talent, both on the field and off. That meant trophy dates, accompanied by a preponderance of hefty, clean-cut guys wearing pleated shorts, beepers on their belts, and tucked-in golf shirts. It seemed wrong that real estate agents and fund managers with their O.C. blonds were arriving in droves, eager for that fan-cam shot to commemorate their outing, while we suffered in a line that was going nowhere fast. (Even Ben Affleck seems to be leaving the eye candy at home these days.) Eventually I ventured off to size up the underground economy. With game time approaching, this scrawny wretch with two black eyes wanted $120 for the crappiest seat in the house. There were no other buyers around, but he was willing to eat the ticket. Youre killing the game, I said, wondering if this guy beats his girlfriend, or the other way around.
Back in line, with ticket sales occurring at the pace of an IV drip, we received no explanation or prognosis from stadium authorities. Finally, near the end of the second inning, Tim and I were fifth and sixth in line. Behind us were a hundred others. Thats it, folks, a security guard intoned, almost mockingly. Then the cops moved in with that old refrain, You dont have to go home, but you cant stay here. Tim and I stood there in shock, as one of Anaheims finest edged closer.
We quickly repaired to a bar that could accommodate us for a few face-saving drinks. Maybe two fans in the whole joint. Another sign that the Angels hardly have captured the hearts and minds of a city if you call Anaheim a city. On the way home, in the middle innings, we cringed as the Angels radio announcer repeatedly referred to players by their first names or nicknames.