Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sober Musings from the Nose Bleeds

Over on the newly redesigned (and relocated) Drunk Jays Fans, Andrew Stoeten mused over the past two days about the well thought out one beer limit for the 500 level at yesterdays home opener. Despite the fact I paid the equivalent of baseline seats, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting three rows shy of the retractable roof. It's not a stretch to say that from that far up, you at least get to see the whole view of the game.

Matt just posted earlier tonight, his thoughts on the cliche turnout of Jays fans during the opening series. I can't say I disagree with a word he wrote. The attendance records over the past decade make it pretty clear that the home opener is nothing more of a spectacle. Game two continues to be just another baseball game.

While many of the fans that went to last night's home opener will in fact be at tonight's game, I can't help but weigh in on my thoughts from the opener and why I think attendance drops off so drastically so consistently.

1. The One Beer Limit and the Discouragement of Happiness

I know it's just one rule, that applies to one game only, but to me it is indicative of the mindset of those in the Blue Jays organization to set such rules. One of the longest standing complaints about Jays games is the lack of atmosphere or fan experience. Rules like this one don't do much to dispel such a notion. Having sat up in the 500's for most games I've gone to in my life, including last nights, I could have told you from the get go that this rule wouldn't do anything to deter the inevitable violence that breaks out in the upper decks. I don't think it takes a rocket science to figure out why.

The guys who get into these fights (I should preface this by saying I did watch a girl try to throw a beer at last nights game, only to have gravity work wonders on the cup and flip the beer back in her own face) are already drunk. It's pretty simple economics. If you only bought a $14 ticket, you aren't going to the game with the mindset of getting drunk off $10.75 beers, you're already drunk, you've spent the last two hours after work (if you had a job in the first place) at one of the fine local establishments surrounding the Dome drinking. A 1 beer limit per visit isn't going to prevent drunken antics if you're already smashed. From my count I witnessed at least 4 brawls break out in the upper deck last night, and that doesn't include the two innings I missed when I left my seat to go purchase my lone overpriced Budweiser.

I've lost count of the number of times I have seen things at Jays games that make me scratch my head at what the goal is of staff and security. I'll never forget the time where ushers kicked out a 12 year old boy, dressed head to toe in home made Jays gear, face paint, and signs, because his chanting and heckling were annoying a couple of patrons who spent more time on there cell phones than they did watching the game. The same place that fired the beloved "ICE COLD BEER" guy. Simply put, I think the Jays organization needs to rethink the rules and instill a little bit more fan freedom.

2. Beer

Yes, the first two thoughts about the atmosphere at the Rogers Centre have to do with alcohol. Shoot me, I'm a mid twenties male.

Having been lucky enough to travel to some of what I would consider the more likable stadiums in the MLB, I have seen what works and doesn't work. This isn't about the price of beer. I can't say I'd do anything different if I owned the team. But there is a lot that could be done to make you feel like less of a criminal when purchasing a beer at the ball game. I've already gone over my thoughts on one-off rules to mitigate drinking-related violence. One of the things I noticed last night, other than the line-ups that make our publicly funded health care system look like a drive-through, is the inherent stupidity of the ID checking system.

When I went to Wrigley last summer, I watched the most common sense practice of checking IDs. When entering through the gates, or scattered throughout the concourses, if you were of age to buy beer you could show your ID to Wrigley staff and they would issue you a wristband indicating that you were 21 or older. Thus when you went back to buy a beer throughout the game, you flashed your wristband, ordered your beer, handed over your cash and back to your seat you went. It seemed like common sense. I think personally it as a lot more to do with the demands of a fan base who go an hour early to every game and refuse to miss more than a play to get a beer than anything else, but I digress.

If there's one complaint I have ever felt about the Dome, it's that the atmosphere is least conducive to fans who are, well, actual fans of baseball. I thought they were heading in the right direction with the Budweiser quick pour stations installed last year, but it will take a lot more progressive ideas (or common sense) to improve.

3. The Roof

There's an old saying, you fish where the fish are. Baseball is a summer sport. Baseball fans like to sit in the sun, eat a hot dog, drink a beer (third times the charm) and enjoy a couple hours of ball. For me, I have never understood why the Blue Jays mentality for marketing as been to alienate actual baseball fans as much as humanly possible in an effort to reach out to new fans. Case and Point 1 - the dome. No part of me ever wants to have to sit in the rain if I don't have to watch a game, but that's the beauty of a retractable roof. If it's raining, you close the roof. To me that is the only time, shy of snow, that the roof should be closed. If you want to sit in an air conditioned arena to watch sports, baseball is not for you. Go catch a Leafs, Raptors or Rock game.

Last night's game was no exception. To me it was completely inexcusable that the Dome wasn't open. I always hear the argument that if it's cold out, if we open the roof, fans might be cold. Bring a jacket, we live in Canada. Moving on...

4. For another day,

I could go on for ages about the lack of 'atmosphere' at Jays games, but I think I've touched enough to spark some discussion. What do you think, what bothers you about the Dome and is there anything you enjoy?


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    Your Other Brother.

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