It’s the Valley of Ashes. It’s chop shops with signs that say CHEPE AUTO REPAIR and SAMBUCCI BROS. INC AUTO SALVAGE. It’s Flushing Meadows park, a grab-bag of World’s Fair relics and more recently installed amenities that now includes an unjustly underhyped New York panorama, a pitch-and-putt that serves beer, a highly enlightened zoo, a science museum where lots of Orthodox Jewish families go, an indoor swimming center where lots of Korean families go, and, still, somehow, the Unisphere.
The old adage goes that the Yankees are a corporate titan. They are winners, and their stadium—the Fucking House That Ruth Built, we get it—is a cathedral.
Shea, by contrast, was merely the most democratic stadium in baseball. It was monstrously big, and, with rare exceptions, you could always find a seat. It was a bowl where you went to go watch baseball games.
Now, the Mets have given their fans Citi Field, a place where we’re invited to do lots of things that don’t really involve watching baseball. There’s a Budweiser beer pit. There’s a party spot called “Knothole Alley” (more old-timey-ness!) beyond the right field wall. There’s an auditorium for corporate events. There’s a spot to host birthday parties and bar mitzvahs. And there’s a restaurant named Caesar Club where you can get gourmet food and watch the game. On TV.
It’s not surprising the Wilpons went down this road: Indications of their new-franchise class envy have been unmissable for a while now. In 2004, for example, the Mets renamed Thomas J. White Stadium, their longtime spring training home in Port St. Lucie, “Tradition Field.” It was an unsubtle attempt to ape the Yankees’ facility, which is called “Legends Field.” It was sad.
AFTER MY TRIP to Citi Field this weekend, I boarded the No. 7 with the intention of getting off somewhere to get myself burgers and beer. I noticed that there were some other Mets fans who had gone to look at the new stadium. I joined them.
At the Cuckoo’s Nest, a Guinness bar in Woodside, we talked about the stadium, and I realized I might be the one who has to get a grip. These guys, like all the other Mets fans I’ve spoken to about the dawning of the Citi Mets era, were divided between those who loved Shea but are willing to give Citi Field a chance, and those who really do like Citi Field much better. (The ones, presumably, the Times writers were addressing in their cheery lede: “For those fans who hated Shea Stadium, fear not: Citi Field is nothing like its predecessor, the last bits of which lie in ruins a few hundreds yards away.”)
“You know, we took the 7, and we got to 110th street; I couldn’t believe Shea was gone,” said my new friend Tom McLaughlin, a 50-year-old travel agent. “But you know what? I thought the new place was really great. I feel like it has a lot of personality.”
“Shea had to go,” said Rob Pedoty, a 44-year-old born-and-bred Queens resident. “You know those forest-green seats they got in the new place? That was the same color of the seats they used at the Polo Grounds!”
Well, fine. But who cares.