Opening day at Dodger Stadium: An intoxicating mix of baseball, Will.i.am and beer cheese
As you know, there are really only two seasons in America -- baseball and football -- and the other day the nation’s summer sport began again near downtown Los Angeles. Pretty much everybody showed up. Seating was very limited.
Yep, they pulled out all the pixie dust possible Tuesday afternoon, for a splendid Dodgers home opener. Grown men tried to drink the sun right out of the sky. There were moms in mustard. Daughters in Either jerseys.
The whole town seemed to be playing hooky.
Dear boss, just can’t seem to shake this Ebola thing. Gonna need another day. Can I bring you a souvenir?
Over-reverence alert: In spring, baseball seems painted by Vermeer. There is artistry to its pigments, and the light seems to glance off heaven. In April, there is potential in every pitch. Isn’t spring all about rebirth? How American. How F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Snark alert: On Tuesday, there was also lots of attitude, trash talk, and a jittery and semi-attentive studio audience.
Out on the mound, Will.i.am was throwing out the first pitch, despite a name that annoys virtually everyone. Just imagine that planning meeting in the executive suites.
“So, whom do Dodgers fans want to see throw out the first pitch on opening day?”
“Hey, I wonder if Will.i.am is available.”
“Could we possibly get him?”
Somehow they did. And the rest is his.to.ry.
By the way, you wonder sometimes, if instead of Loge, Club and Reserve, the Dodgers seating chart ought to say: Drunks, Knuckleheads and Movie Stars. The rest of us -- normal folk like you and I -- seem to fill some sort of middle ground, not making up a constituency really, but significant nonetheless. We fill the seats without breaking them. We argue without shaking fists.
Before I forget, let’s talk about the parking lot where LAPD arrested 132 people, most of them receiving a misdemeanor citation for public drinking. This isn’t football, where the tailgating is part of the experience. It’s not allowed at Dodger Stadium, and after a particularly difficult opener last season it was decided that the rules needed to be enforced.
Back inside the stadium, Tuesday’s mostly well-behaved crowd started out tame and got rowdy over time. I catch up with one customer, the great actor Robert Wuhl (“Bull Durham,” “Arli$$") as he heads to his spot in the Dugout Club.
He seems to be in a hurry, even though the game is 90 minutes from starting. But seating in the Dugout Club can fill fast, and if I were a star like him, I wouldn’t talk to the press either. So annoying, with all their questions.
Anyway, I ask Wuhl if he thinks the McCourt divorce has any chance of creating some sort of curse, as with the curse of the Bambino that hung over Boston, or the curse of the billy goat, which I think also involved a divorce, but that was Chicago, where they live a different and more open lifestyle.
Wuhl smiles and says “That’s a strong statement,” and disappears through guarded doors, into the land of Caesar salads and carved meats.
Fortunately, the Dodgers themselves don’t seem to care about such controversy. The bling seems to be back in Manny’s swing. Matt Kemp is taking the right routes to fly balls again -- mostly. Casey Blake and Andre Ethier provide the kind of quiet, old school leadership that winning clubs need.
Admittedly, baseball games can seem made for sentimentalists and the hard-core unemployed -- far too long, with nary a thing to recommend them except occasional bursts of poetry and absolute grace.
So, idiots like me hang in there, inning by inning, year to year.
What’s the payoff, dear fan? Well, you’ll find many improvements at the ballyard this season. In lieu of pitching, the Dodgers have added the picante dog ($5.75). Lovingly prepared, the picante dog might seem to be the answer to all your troubles. In truth, it is a plumper, spicier, less-satisfying version of the Dodger Dog. I will try another 50-100 before rendering final judgment, because that’s the sort of food critic I am.
The chefs here have also added a humongous pretzel with a dipping sauce called “beer cheese.” If there’s anything I’m not going to eat, it’s something called “beer cheese.” That’s where I draw the line as food critic. I mean, how many colonoscopies do you really want?
In looking at my game notes, thick as George Costanza’s wallet, that’s about all I seem to find. Oh, I see here where they have added portable concessions to the reserve level to alleviate lines.
On Tuesday, lines around the stadium moved pretty well, except for the men’s room lines in the Loge level. As Archie Bunker used to say, “You don’t buy beer, you rent it.” Which is a lousy deal when you think about.
Before I go, gotta share this: Along the third base side, I stumble across a sign that says “Join the Dodger free women’s fan club.”
Since I’ve always been a fan of free women, I looked to sign up, but all the forms were gone, natch.
Anyway, if the Dodgers are giving away women, that’s a marketing ploy even the NFL hasn’t fully explored.
I wish them all the luck.