The Eternal Verities

Its summer, and watching the Angels will cost you $118

On the bright side, the music was far more eclectic than any commercial radio station in town: there was Iggy's "Lust for Life" alongside speed metal, good-natured country, some Rob Zombie-sounding stuff, some Copeland, electronica, Gary Glitter, the Ramones, and Snap's "The Power"—all in 12-second increments.

Of course, the drum cadences from "Let's Go" and "We Will Rock You" were in the house, often accompanied on the big screen by flashing messages of "I can't hear you!" and "Get loud!" interspersed with big Mickey-like cartoon hands clapping, just in case you didn't understand.

The Angels were down by one as they headed into their last at-bat. (Though they're probably thoroughly capable of losing to themselves, on this night, they were playing the Baltimore Orioles.) So the big screen displayed a montage of movie pep talks, including Bill Pullman's big one from Independence Day, which actually got more of a rise from the crowd than anything happening on the field. If I were a ballplayer, I'd figure, jeez, why even bother being out here, aside from my $32 million contract?

Even in the bottom of the ninth, with the Angels one run from tying up the score, a surreal apathy reigned, except in the rockin' speaker cabinets. For every artificial means the powers that be employed to jack up the excitement, the audience seemed that much less engaged. Even my friend Kim, who yells at jockeys on TV and whose dad, Thomas Upton, was an Oriole back when they were the St. Louis Browns in the '50s, sat there unmoved.

Aside from some guy wheezing intermittently on the organ, it used to be left to the players and fans to generate their own excitement. Now who needs either? Just pump up the volume, and the heck with anyone ever feeling connected to the event. It's sort of like never, ever going to bed with someone without there also being a huge stubbly vibrator lurching around between you.

(I am not suggesting that I would ever want to share a vibrator with Mo Vaughn, though I would be remiss if I didn't give a plug to the greatest, and probably only, homoerotic baseball song, "Baseball Card Lover" by Rockin' Richie Ray on Rhino Records. A sample lyric: "All through my spine I was feelin' chills, when into my covers slipped Maury Wills.")

Some prices: the regular hot dog is $2.75; the program (including 30 pages of ads) is $5; a bag of peanuts is $3.75 (darn good peanuts, though); 12 ounces of Molsen "Premium" is $5.50; Angels T-shirts run from $21 to $29 for adults and $16 to $18 for kids. The experience of feeling reamed: priceless.

According to the May 15 Sports Illustrated, an Angels game is a relative bargain: $117.89 for a family of four with midrange seats, parking and snacks. For the Ducks, it's $270.71 and a whopping $427.57 for a Lakers game. Sports tickets have gone up some 80 percent in the past nine years, and, as the magazine noted, stadiums have become the drafty playground of the incorporated rich while the average fan feels disenfranchised.

But there are still the eternal verities: the crack of the bat; the dad in the stands explaining the game to his kid; the resplendent, manicured field upon which the boys of summer toil. It's worth saving. If you'd rather have an experience that's more like baseball and less like the Nuremberg Rally, let the Angels management know. They have to start noticing all those empty seats sometime.3

[1] Don't forget that exclusively California pastime: "Hey, let's get wicked drunk and dive for Dennis Wilson's toolbox!" [2] Of course, I was in town for the wondrous Bumbershoot festival over Labor Day weekend. Even if the rest of your summer sucks, this will make it good. Check it out at www.bumbershoot.com and then go. [3] Good luck: the Angels' website, www.angelsbaseball.com, has no provision for contacting management. At least you can grouse along with other fans in the Fan Forum.

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