The other day I was asked to describe what my dream Ballpark would consist of, if money were no object, and I could include anything that I wanted inside it.
I have always hated questions like that. Not because I do not have a vivid imagination; I can dream big along with the rest of them. No, I hate questions like that because it usually involves a scenario where one ignores reality and instead focus on a utopian vision of what could be, without first providing a plan to address what is.
Too often Ballparks are torn down, or abandoned in place in the prime of their useful life because an owner wants to add some new luxury boxes, or other revenue generating avenues, instead of trying to make the Ballpark they were dealt with better.
That is not to say that money should not be spent to maintain Ballparks. Money will always be an object, but just throwing money at a situation does not make it better, since the root cause of the problem is always there just below the surface.
Ballparks, like life, are messy. They involve many moving parts and elements. Each element is fine by itself, but when they are joined together for a single purpose, they are even greater.
Take for example a hot dog. Hot dogs are tasty just about anywhere, and are one of my guilty food pleasures. But a hot dog inside a Ballpark is always just a bit more enjoyable.
So, in my dream Ballpark scenario, hot dogs would be affordable for everyone, regardless of whether they were rooting for, or against, the home team. And of course the condiments to put on the hot dog would include everything one could think of.
Of course, fans would need a safe place to eat that hot dog. So, in my dream Ballpark every seat would include a folding airline style seat tray.
Seriously, how has no one ever thought of this? Ballpark seats are getting about as small as airline seats, and the average time of a game and flights are pretty similar. So why not include a tray for eating?
The seat back tray tables would serve another purpose besides providing a flat surface to eat on and keep score on. Much like the tray table on an airplane deters people in the window seat from crawling over the other two people in the row to form a line at the lavatory, the Ballpark trays would force people to actually sit and watch the game.
Baseball has parts that are hard to watch, and people like shiny objects and can be easily distracted. But you came to a Ballpark to watch a game, so sit down and watch the game until the captain turns off the fasten seat-belt sign.
One of my biggest pet peeves at the Ballpark is people who talk the entire game and pay very little attention to what is going on between the foul poles.
Inside the confines of my dream Ballpark it would be well known that while sports can provide a distraction for a few hours, along with tasty, reasonably priced hot dogs, they cannot replace the need for real dialog around the water cooler outside of the Ballpark on a variety of issues gripping the world.
From a sports perspective, many people dig in their heels and consider their team to be the best, and despise people who wear a different uniform than their beloved home team. This attitude can be tricky to maintain when someone’s favorite player gets traded to one of those dreaded other teams. Does one suddenly turn on the player that they cheered for until they grew hoarse just because, through no fault of their own, they were sent to another team? Or, do they remember the good times and realize that we are more than the uniforms we wear?
So, in my dream Ballpark, all of the fans would be given special glasses that made all of the uniforms on the field look the same. This way, people can just enjoy the game without worrying about who is wearing what uniform, and whether they hate that player just because they wear a uniform different from their own. The glasses would also cut down on the heckling and harassing of fans of other teams inside the Ballpark since all of the clothes in the stands would also be the same color through the lenses.
By seeing the game through the same colored lens, the man-made differences and barriers disappear and suddenly everyone is the same and can enjoy the ball game together. If only the glasses were able to work outside of the Ballpark as well.
Even if baseball resumes this year, it is going to be awhile before people are back inside Ballparks. So, my recommendation is that now would be a good time to listen to your neighbor and see what the world looks like from their perspective, even without the special Ballpark glasses. Really take the time to listen to them, from a social distance due to COVID-19 perspective, but not from a social distance from an empathy point of view.
Throughout my career I have been fortunate to interview many people from all walks of life, and can safely say that from my experience we are all way more similar than we are different when one takes the time to really listen.
Over the past few months, I have been thinking a lot about the Native American story of the two wolves. There are several variations of the story. My favorite version is noted below.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Pondering about dream Ballparks is certainly a distraction from the current state of the world, but deciding which wolf to feed is a much better use of one’s time and effort. May each of us always strive to feed the right wolf as we await the return of some semblance of normalcy, while also knowing that we have much work to do on numerous fronts when the world reopens.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a wolf to feed. I wonder if he likes hot dogs.
Copyright 2020 R. Anderson