Friday, March 21, 2008

A dying breed

While Positive Week continues here at The Black (and Gold) Spot, I thought I might as well highlight this charming story. It's got all kinds of good ingredients: Golden memories of boyhood, father knows best, Roberto Clemente, and an O. Henry twist ending (and I don't mean Rodriguez).

It's also a real slice of history. The tradition of playing hooky to catch a game, if not completely dead, is certainly having a bit of a lie-down right now. The development of the modern game has conspired to put the squeeze on the aspiring truants of today in a number of different ways. A few examples:

1) Ticket prices/availability. Fortunately for us, one of the perks of a record-setting losing streak is a general surplus of good seats; the degree of difficulty is much greater for fans of more successful teams, who can't count on having good seats available at the window on the day of the game. We enjoy similar good fortune in ticket prices, for the same reasons. Still, one general admission seat at PNC Park is $9 on the day-of-game, not a trivial investment for a kid, and there's always a chance that you could get stuck without a chair if it's Sammy Khalifa Bobblehead Night (now with extra fireworks! (special guest: Foghat!)).
2) Scheduling. By my count, the Pirates have scheduled a grand total of eight weekday afternoon games this year. That's good for working professionals and networks airing the game on TV, but bad for a kid who's trapped in Social Studies.
3) Suburbanization. When you're three miles from the nearest PAT bus stop, and then a 45 minute ride from the stadium, it kind of takes some of the fun and spontaneity out of a potential jailbreak.
4) The seven-man bullpen. Every time Tony LaRussa changes relievers, God kills a kitten, and then adds 15 minutes to the length of the game. Longer games cut down your margin for error when implementing an exit strategy.

It's not a huge loss in the grand scheme of things - more than canceled out by improvements like non-white players, instant access to stats and box scores, and the ability to watch games on the internet from anywhere in the world. I just think we should take a moment to note the twilight days of this piece of Norman Rockwell Americana, before it's gone for good.


RichieHebner said...

What a great, great story. I can smell Forbes Field again, hear the sounds, see those old flannel uniforms and that green grass...

LaRocheclip said...

Let me just say Sammy Khalifa bobblehead/Foghat= best promotion ever. Great article though, brings back memories of piling into my buddy's moms station wagon for a trip to Three Rivers instead of school.