Freshly frisked at security, elbowed out of both armrests, kneecapped by the seat back in front of you: You might equate three hours in a stadium seat with three hours of flying coach. But that's an insult to the airlines, with their preshelled peanuts, reclining seats and relatively unextortionate $5 beers. The truth is, marooned in a middle seat at Shea Stadium, one envies those on the airplanes overhead, watching Maid in Manhattan instead of the Mets.
But then, simply looking at some stadia is an excruciating experience. Take the Eyesore on Lake Shore, the new $600 million redesign of Soldier Field, whose signature Greek colonnade now fronts an enormous atrocity in glass. The result—Acropolis meets Apocalypse—was recently named, by readers of the Chicago Sun-Times, the city's most unsightly edifice, supplanting the Jerry Springer green room.
Isn't it time, then, that ballparks were designed by—or at least for—those who fund them? Which is to say, us. And so I offer this blueprint for the perfect stadium. It will be less I.M. Pei than I.P. Daily, with urinals tail enough to stand up in, like those at a New York City tavern called Old Town Bar, whose ancient porcelain pissers are, in essence, walk-in toilets.
The seats themselves will not be designed for a double amputee, as they seem to be at Madison Square Garden, which ought to have, at each entrance, a cardboard cutout of a four-foot Bozo and the warning: YOU MUST BE SHORTER THAN THIS CLOWN TO SIT DOWN.
More legroom costs more money, so we'll do without other "amenities." The Arizona Cardinals' new stadium, to open in 2006, will have an expensive retractable playing field that can slide out of the arena in one piece on railroad tracks. But that does nothing to serve fans, unless the field is removed mid-game, with the Cardinals still on it. In my stadium we'll ensure that seat-mounted beverage holders actually hold beverages. Not long ago I watched a man buy a bottled beer from a vendor and casually place it in his seat's cup holder, only to watch the long-neck Bud free-fall to the floor, like a man down an elevator shaft.
Likewise, in the perfect stadium, no row would be longer than 10 seats. Too many games are now an endless parade of asses at eye level, entering and exiting the row, until your face is filled with more tail than Tom Arnold at a Red Lobster buffet.
To be sure, your view will be obstructed in my park, but by the only retro feature worth installing: the occasional, oddly placed pillar that forces a few fans, on deeply discounted tickets, to puzzle out an entire baseball game based solely on the facial expressions of the rightfielder.
Better still, as at Camden Yards, it ought to be possible to see into the stadium from the street, but just well enough to witness, free of charge, an eight-inch-wide swath of an entire ball game, as if through the food slot in a solitary confinement cell.
Unlike Camden Yards or Coors Field or Minute Maid Park, all in gentrified warehouse districts downtown, my stadium is an island in a sea of asphalt, with sufficient parking for 80,000 cars and room to run 80-yard post patterns during pregame tailgates. This is in homage to Dodger Stadium, which proves—Joni Mitchell be damned—that paradise and parking lots need not be mutually exclusive.
Sure, such lots necessitate a two-hour postgame vanhunt for one's motor vehicle. But the only thing I can now recall of the 1990 World Series is searching, in the oceanic Oakland Coliseum parking lot, for my white Ford Taurus in what proved to be a whiteout of Tauruses. (The only solution was to let everyone else leave, and take the only car remaining.)