Part 2 of my At-Game Recap (from the Sunday April 3 game vs. the Giants) collects some random observations on what has and hasn't changed at the Stadium in 2011. Keep in mind, I was so intoxicated by being back at Dodger Stadium for my first game this year, as well as by witnessing the Giants go down to defeat, that I probably missed some things here and there. But here's some top of mind stuff--plus a little bonus comment at the end.
Things that haven't changed:
1) Parking and traffic getting into games is still a nightmare. Forty minutes prior to the start of the game, the crawl up toward the Sunset gate was interminable:
I barely made it in before the first pitch, and I know I heard the national anthem from just outside the parking lot turnstiles. I know the Stadium was over 90% full, but the journey from Sunset Boulevard up the hill to the parking lot shouldn't take a half-hour. The bottleneck continues to be the parking turnstile agents, who seem to insist upon having lengthy conversations with each motorist. Or maybe the drivers think they're confessional booths, and suddenly feel the need to chat as they fork over fifteen large ($35 for RVs and limos)?
2) We're still playing God Bless America before the seventh inning stretch. Not to be unpatriotic, but I am not entirely fond of this "tradition" but I've gotten used to it by now (and admittedly I sing along, just as I do with the 7IS). And when you have a decent performer like Sunday night's game, it's tolerable as a prelude to Nancy Bea's "Take Me Out To The Ballgame". One could also argue that it iced Dan Runzler before his fateful seventh inning disaster, I suppose. However,...
3) ...we are unfortunately still playing Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" after the eighth inning. No Jameson Moss tonight. This vice (I'm not calling it a "tradition" or even a "habit") has grown thin. We've got to move on. AND, one could argue that this tune inspired the Giants to try and mount a comeback (they did score runs in the eighth and ninth innings); remember, the Giants co-opted this song as their own during their title run last year.
Enough with the DSB.
4) For more in-between-innings fun, there's still a Smile Cam and a Kiss Cam, and now there's a Dance Cam (the latter of which might have happened last season, but I had blocked out the memory). I'm assuming we're going to add the engine-revving Overhead Cam, the historically nostalgic Helen Cam, and the Anglophile-riling River Cam by season's end.
5) We're still doing the wave. Twice, in fact, one time during a Dodgers rally. Come on, people! This is not the 80s! Grow up!
6) Field level concession lines before the game are still long and slow. And as SoSG reader Josh S. reported, the same lethargy happens on other levels as well. We gotta get some operations guys in here to figure out how to increase throughput.
7) The Picante Dog still isn't very spicy. Ever since they moved away from the Louisiana Hot Sausage (circa 2009), it's been a salivary somnambulation. Bring back the Louisiana Hot Sausage, or at least offer peppers with the Picante Dog!
8) And on the positive side: an evening in Dodger Stadium is still heaven. Not to get sentimental, but date night at the Stadium is always a magical thing. One could say, like a beautiful symphony, it's Saxes and violins. (ouch)
Things that have changed in 2011:
1) There are no players' portraits on the outside of the stadium, which the cynic in me says either represents a reduction in marketing expenses, or indicates that everyone is potential trade bait:
2) Beer cups seem to be smaller (or my hands have gotten a lot larger since last season (no, I am not juicing)). At the normal Dodger concession stands, the only size of beer cup available was in this quasi-souvenir semi-thick plastic cup that said "BEAT THE BAY" on one side. I didn't even notice the writing on the side because I was blown away at the smaller volume of liquid:
Now, it's an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, more expensive beer could mean it will lead to fewer drunks carousing the game and parking lots completely out of control. That's good. On the other hand, for a responsible individual like me who can control his drinking, I'm now getting less volume of beer. That's bad. And who knows; maybe these size cups will lead to more concealed-flask behavior (which I've seen, and always ends up horribly)?
(I should note that I saw other large-sized beer cups among my section, so perhaps I just chose the wrong concession line.)
3) There are many new sponsors, some of which were a bit surprising given how prominent the Dodgers' brand once was. In fact, the Dodger "hat shuffle" has been replaced by three garages, as the DiamondVision animation is now sponsored by a storage rental facility company.
The outfield wall looks like a classified page:
I mean, DeWalt and Stanley Tools? And Merrill Lynch Wealth Management squished in the right-field corner ("Ethierwood")? (I'll talk about the advertisers in the Dodgers' "Playbill" program (distributed by the parking turnstiles upon entrance), as well--we really seem to be dipping into the dregs for some of these sponsors.)
On the anchor-sponsor side, United Airlines (with its new merged-with-Continental logo) now sponsors the suite level (or at least, some of the suites), getting some gleaming new letters beneath:
4) Canter's Delicatessen is sadly gone (though my mother claims the corned beef sandwich was never as good as the real Canter's and was often too dry at the Stadium). In its place: Dodger Deli, serving passable (C+) pastrami sandwiches:
5) BEER DELIVERY TO SEATS! My heart leapt...until I realized it was actually just a mobile hot chocolate vendor:
Finally, a comment about Josh Rawitch, the Dodgers' VP of Communications. Rawitch was kind enough to stop by and say hi to me and Mrs. Sax. And given how TJ Simers pilloried Rawitch in his Sunday column, I had to ask him his thoughts about the security issue this weekend.
I wasn't at the games Thursday-Saturday, but the news of the vicious and cowardly assault on the Giants fan in the parking lot of Thursday's game really shook me. My email starting ringing off the hook when news of this spread, both from Dodgers fans (who were outraged) and Giants fans (who were shocked).
My conversation with Rawitch was off the record, so I can't get into detail--but let me say this: I know Simers was making a point (and I thought he did a pretty good job in his column, relative to other columns he has written), but to classify Rawitch as "insensitive" is not fair. It was clear to me that Rawitch is indeed deeply troubled by this on both professional and personal levels, and the issue of what the Dodgers organization can or can't or should or shouldn't do is complex.
Again, I can't compare the crowds from Thursday to Sunday night. But I did notice that there were security guards slightly more visible than last year inside and outside the Stadium:
On top of that, there was a between-innings video with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (who was soundly booed in my section) admirably pleading for rational behavior between Giants and Dodgers fans (more or less saying to keep the rivalry on the field of play). And, there were multiple screens throughout the game talking about the Dodgers' Hotline number, to call or text if anyone is interfering with someone's enjoyment of the game (they also continued to air the "Code of Conduct" video, narrated by Tommy Lasorda Sunday night).
One can argue that these measures aren't enough, that the Dodgers should do more to ensure that the experience of visiting a Dodger game is a safe one for families. I can sympathize with this argument. I've seen things get more out of control over the last couple of years, whether it's overwhelmed parking lot security guys on meek Segways trying to "confront" hordes of dismissive tailgaters, or awful parental behavior from flask-carrying guys picking fights in the stands, or obscenity-laden taunts to people wearing the opponents' jerseys.
In fact, the guy sitting next to me was a Giants fan, and he wore black and white (with no orange) partially because he didn't want to stand out after Thursday's incident. Which I thought was kind of sad. (I like to think that the other reason why he didn't wear orange is because the color is so ugly with the black, but that's another topic.)
The Dodgers need to keep doing things big and small to ensure a safe environment for its audience. It should be a place we can take our children and enjoy a baseball game without fear of being beaten into coma.
But I agree with SoSG Orel, some of that responsibility has to fall on ourselves, as fans, too. We need to show some dignity. We need to step in if we see misconduct or threatening behavior. We need to be respectful of our fellow man, even if the ones that happen to be Giants fans.
After Duke Snider recently passed away, Sports Illustrated ran a great black-and-white photo of a game involving Snider. A reader wrote a subsequent letter to the editor commenting how the crowd, clad in suits and ties and (formal dress) hats, was clearly more reserved and respectful than the crowds at today's sporting events.
Society has gotten less civil. We need to do our part too to help restore order and decorum.
Anyway, I appreciated Rawitch coming down to chat; I'm sure he's really busy (particularly on Opening Series weekend), but the gesture was very kind and the conversation informative. Let's celebrate the positives of this homestand, starting with the 3-1 series victory--and build upon it when we host the Cardinals next Thursday.
Oh, by the way: Rawitch confirmed that ticket holders to a specific level are not allowed access to other levels in the Stadium, a policy that I thought had relaxed but I guess has not. I'd be more supportive of inter-level access, secured by ushers stationed at each aisle who check tickets and monitor their respective sections (it appeared that ushers were placed every-other-aisle last night). I'll have to ask Rawitch about this next time we meet.
Earlier: Part 1