New York Mets 3 Florida Marlins 4 (17th Sept 2014)
Now I admit I’m not a baseball fan to any degree, and I only went because I love seeing events at stadiums, but my reason for wanting the game to hurry up and finish had nothing to do with me thinking baseball would be better if it was six innings rather than nine. I was just freezing.
In my defence I’d only arrived a few hours earlier from Dallas, where it could be 90 degrees on a cloudy day, but even in New York, it was still t-shirt warm in the city. Times Square doesn’t have cold winds blowing in off the East River though, making the Citi Field scoreboard’s claim of 70 degrees seem hopelessly optimistic.
I’d done little beyond checking into my laughably overpriced hotel and getting a quick bite to eat in a Times Square Starbucks, before finding my way out to Flushing Meadow, where the Mets play at the five-year old Citi Field. It would have been quicker to get there if I’d worked out the subtleties of New York’s subway system, which uniquely uses both numbers and letters for its lines, as well as combining local and express routes for each. On the plus side, such systems do allow the user to feel a cheap sense of smug superiority once it’s mastered, even if such mastery takes about an hour, tops.
It’s also a pretty grotty place, with all stations having a kind of blue-collar 70s urban ghetto chic, giving a chance to imagine experiencing old style New York edginess, before the city above got cleaned up. All that’s missing is the graffiti, but on that score almost the whole of the subway, including the trains, is spotless.
Thankfully the subway goes right to the stadium. Clearly visible to the south is the USA’s equivalent of Wimbledon, where the US Open is held. To the north used to be Shea Stadium, the PacMan shaped stadium where every aspiring big British band would have to play to say they’d “made it” in America. Now, where it stood, is a large parking lot for the new, smaller, but more attractive stadium that replaced it.
Citi Field is another old-fashion “retro” style stadium, being all warm brick facades and interesting angles, in complete contrast to the curved concrete canyon of Shea. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious that at the rotunda atrium entrance to the stadium. Two sweeping staircases, old-fashioned lampposts and more brickwork and painted steel in harmony, more like the entrance to a civic building, or at worst a high-end shopping complex, than a sports ground.
It couldn’t stay at the high standard for the rest of the ground, obviously, be was still pretty smart, just as long as you didn’t look over the east wall into the district next door. An incredibly shabby quarter of auto spares shops looked transplanted from the third world into the worst’s richest country.
A rather better sight was in the opposite direction, with the setting sun picking out the silhouette of the Manhattan skyline, a few miles to the west.
Such a view wasn’t really going to bring out the locals though, and as the start of the game drew near, it became clear the baseball wasn’t going to either, to any great extent. With the season petering out, the declared attendance of nearly 24000 was probably about double the number actually at the game.
A three-quarters empty stadium never helps the atmosphere, and nor does going behind early and struggling to get on the scoreboard. I certainly wasn’t bored, but I can’t say the adrenalin was exactly pumping with the home side 0-3 down past half-way.
The Mets did get back into it, but went into the final inning still 3-4 down. Guiltily, being among home fans, I was secretly hoping there wasn’t a tying run. It wasn’t the cold – it wasn’t that bad – but I’d had my fill for the evening, but finding some sustenance for the rest of the night was also become a concern.
True, I could have had a beer at the game. There was a guy selling beers in the section below who was almost a central casting cliché for what a New York baseball vendor would look and sound like – “Here it is! Bud! Bud light!” – but it would have been difficult for him to have been offering a less tempting product. I was sure one or two bars in Midtown could offer something better.
Would the Yankees, playing the following night, also offer something better than this evening? I’d have to wait and see.