Bulking Up at the Ballpark
Listen to/Watch entire show:
Tonight the Urban Man finds himself high in the stands at Dodger Stadium, where the last of the sun has lifted above the outfield seats, and the rim of Chavez Ravine glows steady in a fierce August twilight.
I haven't been to a ballfield in about 10 years, so forgive me, I'm not here so much for the game as the traditions. I want to enjoy the sound of the organ and the smell of the beer. I want to wave a little pennant and sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game.
Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time getting my traditional ballpark footing. You see, the increasingly oversized technology of this place has overwhelmed me: The huge belt of animated signage that now girdles the stands with its ceaseless streaming ads for Saturn and Bank of America. The nonstop videos on the big screen and the high-energy pop music booming across the void.
Meanwhile, spinning three-D images shout, "What a play!" or demand that we "Make some noise!" When Jason Repko steps to the plate, we see gigantic sultry photographs of his eyes repeated around the stadium, just as if he were a Vegas headliner.
Now, far down on the field, I'm sure the players want to do their part with traditional vigor. They throw the ball. They hit it up into the lights. But they seem very... small down there. Like the oldtime traditions themselves, the players look a lot smaller than their video images.
It's hard to believe they can support such a massive infrastructure on mere human shoulders. Hard to believe that this mega-stadium and its mega-media systems could depend on a few wooden bats and standard-issue muscles.
Recently, people have been shocked by the use of artificial hormones among ballplayers, but I can see why they need to bulk up... I mean, just to keep in proportion.
When the real, but tiny man flies out, the excitement pauses a moment before the next video kicks in. And I think: surely these guys need more than traditional vigor to keep this show on the road. So why not anabolic steroids?
Here in the stands, we 46,000 fans do our part to get with the expansion program. We have gassed up 20,000 oversized cars to come here, and now we consume kingsize quantities of nachos and garlic fries. We down many bottles of beer and $4.50 cups of Coca-cola. I see people attack the super Dodger dogs, the Dodger dogs on steroids, with athletic effort, apparently trying their best to add some size before the end of the game.
As lights come up around the concession stands, I watch the fans make sweaty lines with highly-rounded bodies and toss bags of kettle korn with grave prowess.
After five innings, and hearing no organ music, I go stand at the rail looking southwest across greater L.A. Here the heads of many palm trees blaze in the stadium lights, and the moon hangs above a shining sea of large parked automobiles. Someone has painted the sky in wide bands of color, ranging from a starless blue down to orange and finally red against the mega-city itself.
I brace my shoulders and thrust out my chest. After all, just like modern athletes, we urban men and women also have to face gaudy signs and bass speakers and massive plasma screens every day, sometimes right in our own living rooms. Every day, we face things like giant malls and IMAX theaters and Hummer limousines.
Just like ballplayers, we often find ourselves small, and drained of tradition, and desperate to cast a bigger shadow under all those lights. In fact, the more I think about it, it's no wonder that everywhere I go, people seem to be bulking up in one way or another.
Apparently, we all need to "get large."
Copyright © 2006 Marc Porter Zasada. All rights reserved.
Click the Full Details link to view the complete transcript. Tapes are not available.
Engage & Discuss
BROUGHT TO YOU BY