Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beers, Burgers and Baseball in the Big Apple

Citi Field
12301 Roosevelt Ave.
New York, NY

New Yorkers must be too busy to give much thought to aesthetics.

That was a reoccurring thought as I made my way on foot from my Comfort Inn in Flushing’s Chinatown neighborhood past the barbed wire and graffiti toward the looming edifice of Citi Field nearly a mile away.

As I walked across the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge, the “7 Train” rumbled past overhead in a deafening screech. Cars honked. Neighborhood kids screamed. Jets from nearby La Guardia roared through the overcast sky.

Suit757, you’re not in Kansas City any more. Or Pittsburgh. Or Cincinnati. Or San Diego.

Those ballparks pride themselves on the right aesthetics and ambiance. The lights of the city skyline twinkling through the right field gap. The riverboats steaming by. The historic warehouse in left field.

What about Citi Field, home of the New York Mets?

It’s literally located in the middle of a junk yard.

Cinder blocks, wrecked cars, construction site refuse. That’s the mood-setting ambiance as I approached Citi Field.

And you know what? Mets fans probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

This isn’t Yankee Stadium, home to political elites like Rudi Giuliani, Hilary Clinton and Michael Bloomberg. You won’t find the Wall Street self-proclaimed “Masters of the Universe”, Columbia and Fordham educated elites and Manhattan and Bronx “One Percenters” in Flushing. Those guys probably couldn’t find Citi Field on a map.

Nope. Citi Field is baseball for the blue collar Average Joe baseball fan. Baseball for the common people.

Well, let’s not get too carried away with this generalization.

This is still New York City, after all. My evening of baseball set me back $75.

Seventy-five bucks! That’s more than two days per diem for Suit757.

Twenty bucks bought me a nosebleed seat in left field so far up I could look DOWN on the foul poll and almost touch the 757s taking off from La Guardia.

I expected Citi Field to be a little better organized. This is the big city and all.

Instead, I had to stand in line for 30 minutes to buy my ticket. For a blustery April Monday night game -- against the perennial cellar dweller Washington Nationals -- that featured an 80% empty stadium!

I’d hate to see the lines on a normal night.

Like a Communist dictatorship, New York bans the sale of tickets on the secondary market. There are no sketchy dudes on the corner selling tickets. That way the box office maintains a monopoly on ticket distribution.

As with every other Communist regime in history, the result is ridiculous lines. I’d have gladly paid more than face value to avoid wasting a half hour of my life I’ll never get back.

By the time I made it through the lines and subjected myself to a TSA-like frisking, I was irritated. And thirsty.

The good news is that you can actually get good beer at Citi Field. Brooklyn Lager in a 16 oz can. Or Chicago’s Goose Island IPA in a 20 ounce souvenir cup.

The bad news?

Ten bucks per beer. Ouch!

IPA in hand, I was already $30 into this investment before the first pitch of the game from Mike Pelfrey.

I decided to check the place out.

I have to admit, the gritty setting of the park becomes a distant memory once you pass through the gates. This is a nice gleaming new ball park.

Especially on a sparsely attended night like this, Citi Field makes it easy to wander around the park and explore. They even offer very convenient beer holders along the “standing room” rails behind the home plate for the folks like me who would prefer to stand close to the action rather then sit in low earth orbit in the outfield.

There’s a nice courtyard out behind the Center Field wall where Citi Field’s most famous concessions are located.

Like a lot of modern ball parks, the Mets have incorporated local culinary landmarks into their concession offerings.

Shake Shack, an oh so hip (and popular) burgers, fries and shakes joint that started in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park, has an outpost here in Center Field.

So does Blue Smoke, another ultra-popular Manhattan restaurant that serves genuine Southern barbeque.

Being Suit757, it probably doesn’t surprise you that I’ve been to both of those original locations.

Unfortunately, the lines in Center Field for those two concessions were ridiculous.

I was there to drink beer and watch baseball. Not stand in line for three innings.

Need I remind you, the stadium was 80% empty?

By the Seventh Inning, the lines had all but disappeared. So I ordered a $9.50 Shake Shack burger and a $5.50 hot dog.

Fifteen bucks and they couldn’t get my order right. First they gave me fries instead of my hot dog. Then they forgot the special spicy marinated onions I paid an extra couple bucks for.

Like I said, you’d expect a little more organization in the big city.

The burger was tasty – a good facsimile of what folks stand in line for two hours to get at Madison Square.

To ordinary Americans, when we want a good burger, we just drive down to the local Five Guys or Steak N Shake. But when you live in Gotham, a decent greasy burger is apparently such a novelty New Yorkers are willing to sacrifice a major chunk of their life standing in line to get one.

Even Suit757 thinks that’s ridiculous. I mean, get a life.

Or move to the suburbs.

My “Frisky Dog” lived up to its name. The onions, marinated in hot peppers, immediately lit my mouth on fire.

That probably helps to explain why I downed four beers, even though I was shelling out a Hamilton for each one.

By the Seventh Inning Stretch, I was in a panic. With mouth burning, beer cup dangerously low and a tie score, the thought occurred to me that this game might go extra innings.

As famous New York Times sports writer Peter Richmond once said, “Beer needs baseball, and baseball needs beer - it has always been thus."

No truer words had ever been spoken.

With just moments to spare before last call, I dashed down the concourse and gratefully handed over another ten spot in exchange for one more can of Brooklyn Lager.

As it turns out, my fear of beerless extra inning baseball was all in vain.

The Mets’ Left Fielder, David Murphy, took care of that.

With a dramatic walk off hit in the bottom of the ninth, Murphy sent the 20,000 or so Mets fans out into the chaos of the big city with smiles on their faces.

And Suit757 still had five bucks worth of beer left.

Then it occurred to me as I chugged my last ten ounces -- maybe those folks who stand in line for hours to get a Shake Shack burger the rest of us take for granted aren’t so irrational after all.

I guess we all have our vices.

Rating: Would Wear A Free Shirt.

No comments:

Post a Comment