Lessons From The Ballpark

Lessons From The Ballpark

I can’t help myself. I’m a sports nut and whenever I travel I always like to go to The Game. Doesn’t matter what game. Any game will do. Last night it was Baseball with the Cleveland Indians taking on the leading Detroit Lions at Progressive Field.

I took my leave from the opening function and jumped a cab across town. Like Melbourne, Cleveland’s sporting facilities are on the perimeter of the city centre. Cleveland Stadium, the home of the Browns in the NFL is on the Lakeside while the Baseball and Basketball Stadiums sit side by side a short ride on the other side of town. Canberra desperately needs the same thing. It’s time to mothball Canberra Stadium and bring sport to the city. That Rugby League Field in Braddon looks like just the spot. Let’s start saving up.

Anyway, we (that’s the Indians) got smoked. By the time I get there at the bottom of the 5th, it was 8 zip. It costs me 5 bucks to get in. Progressive Field is a majestic sports stadium. On a comfortable evening, (around about 18 degrees), the dazzling lights, set against the well-populated steep stands and the perfectly manicured grass field, is impressive. Great players from the past are celebrated with giant permanent images, etched on what would otherwise be grey slabs of concrete

What strikes me most about the game was the place of the fans. While plenty of fans were heading out the exits, thousands more were sticking around to see it out. This game was made for the fans. They are front and centre. The music blasts with golden oldies like Living on a Prayer and Hang on Suzie, as the crowd leaps about hoping to see themselves on the big screen. Dressed proudly in their Indians gear they watch and know the game. Dads with their daughters, guys with their girls, college friends, work mates and grandmas are all up and at it. The players too seem to enjoy the frivolity. Having fun is first and foremost. The result is almost incidental. I wonder to myself how some of the overpaid sour pusses in Australian sport would react to not being the centre of attention. Too often in Australia we take sport too seriously. In lots of ways we’ve lost (if we ever had it) the sense of fun that was pervasive at Progressive Field.

Lest anyone gets the impression I’m having too much fun, this is a contentgroup ‘tour of duty’ so let’s get down to business.

The use of the big screen is masterful. It’s loaded with video, graphics, statistics and screams ‘look at me”. The use of great historical moments, spliced with vision from other matches played that night, adds to the richness of the event. The crowd love seeing themselves on the big screen as the cameras zero in, quickly moving from one entertaining group to the next. The more outrageous the dance moves, the better.. There are cheers and claps the crowd all know – it’s Tribe Time now .

The merchandise stalls, which are seemingly located every 20 metres, are loaded with everything from bobble dolls to sweat shirts. Peanuts, popcorn, hot dogs and beer are all part of the show. If America is in recession, don’t tell the crowd at Progressive Field. You would hate to spoil their fun.

The game didn’t improve as we sank further behind. But it didn’t matter. It all starts again tomorrow. It looks like the end for the Indians. Our playoff chances are all but gone.

Oh well. The Browns kick off on Sunday. Another sport, another season, another reason for more fun.


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