At no point last week in my first visit to Citi Field did I connect to being a Met fan or being at a Met game. Based on the interchangable and coloreless feel of the place my Met host Garo and I boarded the 7 Train secure in the knowledge that unlike its naming rights-of-way this 47 year-old franchise is not too big not to fail.
Citi Field feels less like the new home of the Mets and more like a vist to a retro ballpark chain. You see it in the Disneyesque Main Street USA feel. The lighting is arranged in a bulb-like bouquet -- how quaint. How inappropriate. The homage to Jackie Robinson is fine as a traveling exhibit -- but not as a Met shrine. Considering the scale of his achievement it deserves a full entourage before coming to rest in Cooperstown, not Flushing.
Bal and I've actually visited two retro ballpark branches together --both which felt a lot more respectable and unique than this one (Camden Yards in '92 and PacBell in '99). Canuck praises Safeco and new Tiger Stadium for their local views both of the city and pride in their teams reminders. But if you ever believed in the "Orange and Blue" you can terminate this belief at the next Citi ATM.
I'm not nostalgic for Shea -- nothing that transparently reactive. But the pump-me-ups were complete artifice. And I'm lovesick mad for the community of Met legends that have been banished to the right field gate. Seaver, Piazza, Hernandez, etal. are not even in the building. They inhabit banners that suggest a passing reference to the backfold of an old game program:
National League Stars Coming Soon to Shea
-- but that means McCovey, Gibson, Aaron and Rose -- not the M-E-T-S Mets. Not the ways of Shea, indeed. Also, the end of the horseshoe design scheme brings two unwelcome changes:
1) You can't see out. There's no skyline. There's no bay. There's not even the Flushing junk yards to remind us of the ash heep that sprang into Phoenix-like action when the original fairgrounds were razed.
2) The PA announcements have the power to curb all spectator conversation like ... being indoors. Remember when we lamented the LaGuardia flyovers as rally deadoners? Well the park's been re-routed but there are no rallies left to deaden. Really.
The one fresh departure from symetrical stupor is an inverted richochet inducement in right field. If any live ball caught that carom, any self-respecting pinball point system would say 'game over.' Yes it's self-conscious. But a quirk is still a quirk no matter how storied the franchise or fertile the benefactors of new ballparks. No one's turning pre-retro any time soon.
At least not until the prequel but whose narrative will that be? Surely not the franchise I once knew.