Notes from The Ted
We had the rare good fortune of attending a pair of games at Atlanta’s own Turner Field – a.k.a. “The Ted” – this past weekend as the Braves took on the Mets. Here’s what we observed on our first visit to ATL’s house of baseball in many moons:
1) The Braves (5-1) are not a joke. That’s right – entering Monday’s games, Los Bravos had the best record in all of baseball, and Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones haven’t even started hitting yet. This bodes well.
What also bodes well is that the Braves’ bullpen is absolutely filthy. The wildly unpredictable Mike Gonzalez comes in and creates a jam for himself (which he subsequently wriggles out of) in the 7th, Rafael Soriano – who looks like he might strangle a clubhouse attendant if he doesn’t get three consecutive outs – handles the eighth, and Bob Wickman – the trucker’s trucker; absolutely a perfect fit to close in Atlanta – waddles in for the 9th. It’s truly a beautiful thing to behold, and only mildly disconcerting is the fact that all three of them have histories of arm problems and that Bobby Cox is already completely addicted to using them.
2) Atlanta scalpers are a joke. Both games (Friday and Sunday) our entourage arrived approximately one inning late without tickets and were able to secure incredibly cheap seats with very little haggling, primarily because…
3) Atlanta ushers are a joke. Which is to say, it’s incredibly easy to wander into Turner Field with any old ticket and proceed to make your way directly behind the dugout, which we were able to do both games. Although we were asked to move on a couple of occasions, which always strikes us as rather ridiculous, especially when the stadium isn’t full. Why not let us second-class citizens storm the front rows with impunity if there are some prime empty seats here and there?
Thankfully, the stickler usher was the exception to the rule, and most of them happily turned the other way (or weren’t even guarding the aisle in the first place). This can’t really help the ticket scalpers’ cause, because any intelligent fan knows that it’s completely unnecessary to spend more than five dollars on a ticket to get in when he knows that he can maneuver to any seat he pleases.
And occasionally, it’s completely unnecessary to spend a single penny on a ticket, because…
4) Southern hospitality actually does exist. On Sunday, we were able to undercut the scalpers one degree further when, during the negotiations – which had us on the verge of talking the scalper down from his already low asking price of 10 dollars total for two tickets – a random individual who had clearly been out drinking all night and confessed that he had proceeded to get sauced at Easter brunch told us that he had two extra tickets that he would give to us for no price.
All he asked in return – other than a few random high fives – was that we attend his party on Tuesday night, where he told us there would be free bowling at an upscale Atlanta establishment.
The best thing about this encounter was that under different circumstances we’re pretty sure we might have wanted to slug this pseudo-hipster in the gut, but here – walking underneath a bridged-over portion of I-75/85 – we were exchanging banter, tickets (and the aforementioned high fives) like old friends.
And now that we’re fresh out of clever segues, we’ll simply say…
5) If you’ve never had them before, you really need to try boiled peanuts. Boiled peanuts, for those not in the know, are peanuts that have been boiled. And if done properly, they’re outrageously delicious. We’d advise purchasing them from Maria, who sets up shop about a block down from that building that looks kind of like a church on Ralph David Abernathy. Five dollars will get you two bags, and before you know it you’ll be sitting in your seat with your shoes buried in a pile of moist peanut shells.
Now does that not sound like bliss?
And the only negative thing we have to say from what was otherwise an outstanding weekend of baseball (and for the record, it actually pains us greatly to admit this, but it was too noticeable to ignore):
6) Atlanta fans really are kind of disappointing.
But before you go buck wild on your pre-packaged rant about how terrible Atlanta fans are even though you’ve probably never attended a game at Turner Field in your life, slow down for a second and get this straight:
Their in-stadium behavior may be disappointing, but don’t think for a second that Braves fans are dispassionate. Wander around Atlanta and just about all the people you encounter – persons of all ages, heights, shoe sizes and hair colors – are preoccupied with the well being of the hometown baseball team.
Along those lines, we’ll never forget that moment back in late 1991 when our elderly piano teacher (may she rest in peace) – a person who you’d think wouldn’t even own a television set, let alone understand the concept of bearing down with runners on base – went on a long dissertation about what an outstanding Braves team we’d had that year. (She then proceeded to make us play some horrendous piece of classical music that we had not practiced once, let alone even glanced at, during the entire week that had elapsed since our last lesson.)
So it’s not that Braves fans don’t care; it’s just that when they attend a game, they’re incredibly quiet. And to some of you, being quiet probably equates to being dispassionate, and there we confess that you sort of have a point. But at the same time, you’re also sort of wrong. And that’s just something you’ll have to take our word on.
Either way, we’ll admit that the silence in the crowd can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you know that there are tens of thousands of people in the stands who actually do care. There were multiple points in the game when we were rather certain that if we stood up and screamed as loudly as we could, we most likely could have gotten center fielder Andruw Jones’ attention from the first base line (were he not so blatantly hung over from the night before).
And it is true that the times we did scream, we felt certain that at least one individual in our section who was intently watching the game wanted to turn around and slug us in the gut for being so obnoxious.
Of course, we were reluctant to be too confrontational in that situation, because as we sat there on a Sunday afternoon with a cold bottle of… umm… soda, in sun-drenched seats that did not remotely correspond with our ticket, as a stack of boiled peanuts piled higher atop our shoes with each passing minute, we were more or less in something resembling baseball heaven.