Due to my father having season tickets, I have seen quite a few baseball games this summer. The Minnesota Twins were terrible when I was growing up (I missed the championship years), then they were pretty good for a number of seasons, but over the past two years have reverted to form. They are, once again, irrelevant. Despite the intense heat this summer, and the fact that for the majority of the summer the Twins have been among the worst teams in the league, attendance has been respectable. There still seems to be a small boost from the new (now two years old) ballpark that was constructed in downtown Minneapolis, which replaced (at least for the Twins) the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
It must be said that the Target Field is a very nice place to watch a game. It must also be said that I’m not a big baseball fan; the occasional game is enough for me, and I hadn’t been to the new field since it opened in 2010 until this season. The Metrodome wasn’t a great place to watch a game, but memories of attending games in high school, when the Twins were at their worst at the stadium empty, still burn bright. Sure the Twins were bad, but you could get general admission tickets to the upper deck seats in the outfield for $1.00. Try getting that these days.
Having attended a good deal of sporting events in other countries–Germany, England, Japan, Italy, and Portugal to name a few–I struggle with the curious tradition we Americans have of playing the national anthem prior to each and every sporting event. Not just professional, mind you, but collegiate and high school as well; all sports, all levels. There seems to be no logical explanation to me other than simply being saturated in nationalism–it seems to have gotten worse sine 11 September 2001. There are a few things you can count on at a baseball game at Target field: nationalism, rhetoric (mostly vacuous, I’d argue) about the military and “supporting the troops”, and unbridled capitalism. Perhaps that is what we have become. Maybe that sums up the American experience, especially the past 30 years.
Everywhere you look, and everywhere you walk, you are bombarded with commercial messages. From the club shop at the entrance, to food and beverage vendors one after the other, to billboards, and sponsorships. The 7th Inning Stretch for example, a baseball tradition, is sponsored by HealthPartners (a medical/health services corporation); supporting the troops is sponsored by Budweiser; and the “Kiss Cam” (a crowd favorite) is brought to you by a jewelry company.
On this particular day, I took my son to the game. My dad couldn’t go, so he gave me the tickets to use. The Twins were playing the Texas Rangers–and I honestly couldn’t tell you who won anymore. Part of that is the fact that I’m not a huge fan, part of it is that Max and I were having fun talking and laughing…but a big part is because the entire atmosphere is frankly a bit overwhelming. Max wanted peanuts, ice cream, cotton candy, a baseball hat, and more. The stadium is designed to get you to walk past as much stuff for purchase as possible; when you finally get to your seats, there are billboards and lit-up signs all around for visual stimulation, and vendors walking the aisles with an assortment of cotton candy, beer, water, mini-doughnuts, soda, water, ice cream, and more. When you get to the bathroom, there are advertisements to stare at as you stand over the urinal. There is no refuge.
People don’t seem to mind. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: they eat it up (forgive the pun)! The club shop is packed each game, the walking vendors are busy, and there is a steady stream of customers at the hot dog stands. My son got cotton candy and peanuts, but I had to draw the line at Twins merchandise–like everything else at the stadium it is marked up by a good 20-30%. People pay prices they would not stomach anywhere else for hot dogs an beer: just the other night I went again with my dad, and we paid almost $20.00 each for a hot dog and beer. It was solid, but we aren’t talking premium, high-grade stuff here. At the end of the day, while it’s better than most ballpark fare, it’s still ballpark fare. Overpriced, at that. But we have all come to accept that we will be gouged when we attend a sporting event. $7.25 for a bottle of Budweiser? Yep. $8.50 for a brat? Of course! And I could go on, naturally, but you get the idea.
All in all, we had a good time, Max and I. He had only been to a game once before, and so we talked about the field, the players, what was happening, etc. But that all felt secondary, to both of us. He was preoccupied with the giant bag of multi-colored cotton candy I had procured from some night high school kid walking up and down the aisles, while I was busy with my camera, and watching the circus unfold all around us. We are a curious people, we Americans; we have curious habits that really stand out once you travel a bit. Having traveled extensively, I can appreciate the way we are more in a way that I probably couldn’t if I had never seen other cultures and ways of doing things.
In the picture above you can see the giant display in the outfield. It is a picture of two baseball players, one wearing “M” on his shirt, the other “STP”, shaking hands over a river. To many this may not be immediately clear if you are not from the area. The Twins also wear an interlocking “TC” on their caps. The “TC”, of course, stands for Twin Cities, and the display in the outfield signifies the two cities coming together. That’s why the baseball team from Minnesota is called the Minnesota Twins. Sports nicknames in the US are curious and seem to follow no real pattern. Some seem arbitrary, like the Detroit Tigers or the Jacksonville Jaguars; others like the Minnesota Twins, the Milwaukee Brewers, or the Colorado Rockies seem pertinent (and in my opinion are examples of the best kinds of nicknames); still others are links to the past, such as the Los Angeles Lakers (formerly the Minneapolis Lakers), the Utah Jazz (formerly the New Orleans Jazz), and the Dallas Stars (formerly the Minnesota North Stars). These lists could go on, but the nickname is an American sporting tradition for as long as we’ve had sports. A curious one, but a not uninteresting one.
Ultimately, people go to these games to enjoy themselves. And that they usually do.
Today’s post is a bit unorthodox, but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. If you did, I’d really appreciate any comments, feedback, or suggestions you would take the time to leave. It really does mean a lot to get some feedback from the people who read these posts each time I post. If you like my blog, please let me know! Also, take the time to let someone else know about my blog, if you think they would enjoy it. Finally, you can see more of my work at my website:
Thanks again for reading, and see you next time,