The panel

So last night I sat on a panel at a New York City hotel with a bunch of sports writers. It was sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, and MCed by Jason Gay, the paper’s fantastic columnist.

I generally hate panels. Actually, I generally loathe panels. A bunch of people talking over themselves to answer questions that don’t matter. Also, I’ve become one of those people who can’t schmooze for the life of him. I just find it all very awkward …

“So you’re Jim Pearlman.”

Uh, yeah.

“I loved your book on the Mets.”

Thanks.

“I didn’t finish it, but what I read I really liked most of.”

Cool.

“Do you think Terry Collins is doing a good job?”

(Proper answer: I’ve watched one inning of baseball this year)

Well, he’s leaving the starters in way too long.

Luckily, my parents came. So during the pre-panel schmooze, I hid behind my mom and dad, pretending to exist. Once the event officially began, I sat on stage alongside Jason, John Thorn (the historian), Brian Costa, Dan Barbarisi and Matt Futterman (all WSJ sports guys). To my shock (and pleasant surprise), it was fun. Really fun. Jason kept things rolling along, and if I’m gonna talk sports, I prefer it’s about nostalgia and long-ago days. Which some of this was.

There was, however, a singular moment that caught my attention, and really made me think. Toward the end of the hour, attendees were allowed to ask questions. There were probably 150 people in the room, representing different corporations and businesses that advertise with the newspaper. One man took the mic and asked why stadiums were losing their souls; why people attend games and don’t even cheer; why everyone sits on their cell phones, eating sushi and such (those are my words, not the guy’s).

A couple of answers were given by the panel, but I stayed quiet. Inside my head, I kept thinking the same thing: You people!

You people!

You people!

You people!

I don’t say this meanly, but it’s true. One of the biggest problems with the lameness of sports crowds these days are corporations swooping down, purchasing enormous swaths of tickets, then using them to impress clients. The result is an audible yawn: Indifferent folks hogging up the best seats, sipping their luxury ale through a straw while complaining about the steak that just cost the company $40 (write off). What stadiums lack—especially in the good seats—are fans who care. Who scream. Who yell. Who roar. Who live and die with an at-bat. With a pitch. The upper decks of stadiums have become ghettos  for working-class fans; the last places they’re allowed to be.

Hell, when I was a kid fans could sneak down through the stadium stairwells and snag better seats as the games went on. Now, an army of guards will stop anyone who dares try. Is it class warfare? Not exactly. But it is about class. And money.

5 thoughts on “The panel”

  1. Agreed. Hate watching Twins games anymore and all the seats behind home plate are either empty or filled by people on their iPhones. Granted, the first season at Target Field was a whole lot of people going because it was the cool place to go, but it is still a cruel site that when the players hit the field to start the game and the upper decks of cheaper seats are filled and half the box seats are still empty.

  2. Recent went to a minor league game ( could not afford majors with gas prices at 3.65 gal and tickets for one would equal 4 for the minors) and tried to move down in the 4 th inning was barked at told NO! In a stadium holding 5500 with maybe 400 at the game. It never ends.

  3. I long for Shea Stadium, and I hate Citi Field.

    Shea was my field of dreams – people called it a dump, but it wasn’t one for me. It was a favored destination of mine for the better part of 4 decades. It had noise, attitude, color, and yes, it had style.

    What is Citi Field? A drab, lifeless excuse for a ball park where the only splashes of color inside the walls are from the advertisements. It’s a place without an obstructed view in the house – for the advertisements. It is a stadium with advertisers in mind, and a means to extract every last buck out of all of us.

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