Ahab had Moby Dick, Achilles the noble prince Hector, and King Lear only madness--so in the broad sweep of tortured literary obsessions, this work is not without precedent.
Joseph Campbell says a man needs to look his enemies hard in the face and announce they are bastards.
Big game tomorrow or not, I am compelled:
I have long hated the Metrodome.
Before it was planned. Before it was built. Before the Masters of the Universe, i.e. owners of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, conspired to bring baseball downtown, along with its multi-millions in luchre. It was an inside job (sic, very sic), from day one, to cut Bloomington off and bring unassuming out-of-towners to Minneapolis and separate them from cash with the slogan: there will be a baseball game tomorrow FOR SURE.
I still have my yellow SAVE THE MET sweatshirt in my closet, on a hanger, with its intricate reproduction of Metropolitan Stadium ironed onto the very spot where my sobbing chest sank during the last week of the 1981 baseball season.
But, I understand. I get it. Big rollers figuring a route to money through a development scheme is the Ur-text of America. How can I complain?
Because the Metrodome has been, for 28 years, the flat-out worst venue for baseball on either side of the Mississippi, north of the Mason-Dixon line (there is Tampa's stadium after all)--and that includes minor league affiliates, small-town amateur parks and liberal arts college backfields.
If you chump the legions of Minnesota Nice, I say, have some decency: do it with class.The damn Dome lorded over three decades of my life, its pillowy hide visible from my third floor, keeping me from attending Major League Baseball, or even enjoying it on T.V. (Sorry folks, but Twins home games can be incredibly vapid, sterile and boring affairs.) I know reporters have been doing these toothless retrospectives lately, (a decent one here) ups and downs of baseball in the Dome, including Minnesota's two World Series Championships. They just haven't gotten the nub: the Dome has been a dreary, vapid, hideous backdrop in this community's journey through 28 years of America's greatest sport.
It didn't make a single player look better or seem larger than life -- and teams went away happy to be over with it than elevated by the experience. What's a stage for? Yankee Stadium, Fenway, Wrigley?
It's bad enough kids don't go to parks anymore, choose sides and, tossing gloves back and forth each inning, spend afternoons learning the game inside-out, on grass and in dirt, mixing sweat and fun. But to take baseball indoors, insulate it from all that is good about Earth --because you want to assure people a game will be played FOR SURE on a certain date in April is thinking that has ruined many a native and natural blessing in America.
And only the Twins, with infinite marketing savvy, could turn this epic boondoggle-- a giant white dorkiness lording over a cavernous hole, baseballs going lost or bouncing enough to fundamentally alter a game's carefully calibrated balance--into a credible marketing campaign: Farewell to the Metrodome.
Well, two can dance to that. Here's my list of fondnesses, in no order.
- For years, from the West Bank, friends and I imagined what a single well-placed mortar round would do to the pressurized puff-piece loosely called "the roof". This was pre-terrorism, and we politely scaled back our scenarios after a thunderstorm tore teflon and partially deflated the white pouch, causing a riot, and temporarily obliterating identities of player and fan on the field.
- I'm still waiting for Dave Kingman's lost flyball to land in left-center after some thunderous ovation, though, supposedly, it's already shaken loose and been retrieved by a maintenance worker. What's the chances that gets to Cooperstown?
- In the 1980s, I used to park cars before games at a friend's apartment block. There's been a fast trade in improvisational parking all these years, and for a quick $20 and sometimes free tickets, we flagged down confused motorists and convinced them that the tight spot, with dangerous potholes, next to the dumpster-- and poorly lit-- was an absolute bargain compared to what thieves down the street would knick them for. They have since tore down the flop-houses and paved a proper lot, with automated tickets and a lift arm--small fry example of how American efficiency has cost us good jobs.
- In those years I went to games wearing a Mexican string bag under my shirt, down my back, in such a way that two litres of quality, cold beer wouldn't get caught in the turnstyle. The bottles were packed in peanuts, real ones, from the organic bin at the Coop. All this was necessary after a buddy worked temporary at the Dome one night, drawing beers, and covering them with plastic for the next day's game. I can put up with certain shoddy efficiencies, but, bad American beer, flat as rinse water, and five bucks for a thimble-full of soggy peanuts were two things I hated more than Dome itself. Sneaking beer was likely a violation of some sort-- I poured into cups below seat level and shared with friends-- but In the age of terrorism, it's not prudent to test security; anyway, the Dome got decent beer, one of few improvements over its detested reign.
- Tim Teufel once hit a three-run inside the park home run, a pop-up just beyond second base, giving the Twins a big win over the White Sox (I think it was the Sox). "Teufel" apparently means something demonic in German, not lost on the opposing team's beat reporter, though the whole reminded me of a long ago Rec game when a grounder I hit went under the second baseman and rolled for a grand slam.
- 1987, game 7 of the World Series, one of the Dome's best moments. I will never forget it. The crowd was amazing. I'm talking about Liquor Lyle's of course, where people spent the 8th and 9th innings standing on tables, smoking joints, fighting each other over a T.V. view. After the win, crowds moved downtown and the complete demolition of social boundaries and outpouring of good will, as people hugged and high-fived strangers of all stripes, ages and social classes, is still, for my money, the most amazing event I've witnessed in Minnesota. It's worth noting that the epicenter was on Hennepin Avenue, far from the Dome.
- 1991, game 7 of the World Series. Yes, I'm in the Dome, second deck, third base side, surrounded by people with Southern accents, brazenly mocking Native Americans by chopping aggresively, as if that was all they cared to know about a culture much different than their own. As a proponent of non-violence, this was the last time I missed not having a tomahawk. I did instantly spot Knoblauch's deke of Lonnie Smith at second base, yet another game where a lost Dome ball--in this case on offense-- allowed the Twins a win.
Mostly I've stayed away from the Dome the last decades. Or, taken "outdoor baseball" pilgrimages to other stadiums: MIlwaukee, Detroit, New York, Boston, Chicago. And, I've missed a lot of games--on purpose.
And when I do go to the Dome, I still disdain it, alternating as it does between sensual overstimulation--music and commercials are loud and obnoxious--and aesthetic poverty-- concrete, fake field turf and plastic (from chairs to the "green baggie") being the main tableaus on which the eyes inevitably maroon themselves. And it would be remiss not to bemoan the long, tight rows of seats, requiring each fan to stand every time a kid needs nachos or a turn at the stool. Or the ridiculous, retro and ultimately destructive adulation of ATVs--which pollute the field and all of us in the early innings.
Even today, after 28 years, I marvel at how blithely we accept some of the Dome's inadequacies, like John Gordon saying without a hint of irony: "He plays this one off the baggie." Maybe it's just me, but that cheapens a national past-time, isn't it?
Instead, I've taken to going to the Dome before notable games and mixing in the pre-game crowd, hoping to influence the eventual outcome by adding some intangible personal touch--that butterfly wing flapping half a world away that makes a hurricane. And, it's nice to mingle with Homeland Security, their bomb squads, tough faces and fully automatic rifles. Who knew the Metrodome was so central to our National Pysche? Here I've been rooting for its demise all these years as a net improvement to our civic identity.
So the last game at the Dome was supposed to be on my birthday, and there I was the day before hooting and hollering for the Twins to win, to extend their season, and to prolong my misery another game, another series, another few weeks. How do we end up in lives like this? Hoping for continuation of the very bane that troubles us?
They took a team I love and put them in baseball prison for almost thirty years. From watching Killebrew, Oliva and Carew in the pastoral calm of a Bloomington evening, to being bombarded by bad music and a mall scene on a barren edge of Minneapolis. I've been conditioned to accept this as normal, even somehow charming and lovable.
Well, yuk! I will not go gently into that good night. I, too, loved the two World Series crowns, the reign of Kirby and grace of Torii. But, Whitey Herzog was probably right: Without that shitty original sin of building a Dome, there would be no baseball championships in Minnesota.
But even without these, there would have been great games, afternoon sun and moonlit nights where the ball sails deep and disapears into a torrent of people. Crisp air and humid, rain in the field lights, the crack of bats and thunder. Everyone looking a little nobler backlit by grass and sky, having experiences that make going to a game essential and worthwhile, whatever the outcome.
I don't cherish baseball because it rewards with a ring. I cherish small and unexpected ways it connects me to America's past, our naked land and a sense of shared community. On that score, the Dome has partially succeeded: it brought people together, maybe by circumstance, maybe by design. It totally sucked me in, just the other day: with both bowls full, alive like an unimaginably large circus ride, people's raucous voices chorusing, urging an outcome, it inevitably leads to one thing: the Twins vanquishing a foe. Then a lot of happy faces and generous talk with friends.
I remember the Dome for its odd grip locally on our greatest game: its drear commercial dreck along with fondnesses of winning, with and against all odds, but always on a chintzy floor.
As an old-timer opposed to all this from Day One, I say: Good riddance, my friend. You have been an enemy of mine. I have long waited to see you out of the baseball business. And that day, which has seemed impossibly far away for so many years, is now, at long last, close at hand.
And, when the Twins finally make that 27th out in their last game-- and Thank God it's baseball and we cannot know if or when that will be!!!I--- I will consider that day sacred, and walk away a new man, free after a long but undeserved sentence for a crime, loving baseball, that I freely committed.