Excellent reasons abound for wanting the Minnesota Twins to win the American League pennant and capture the World Series. Not the least of these is the message it would send to Major League Baseball’s cretinous commissioner, Bud Selig.
To rehash a well-told story, immediately after last year’s World Series Bud revealed himself to be baseball’s Dr. Kevorkian by attempting to kill two major league franchises, the Twins being one of them. Legal wrangling during the off-season effectively issued a stay of execution, and the team was permitted to play on (though Bud vowed he was not done trying).
So a Twins World Championship would be a well-deserved “Up Yours” to a man who is quite possibly the most loathsome individual ever to inhabit the office of baseball commissioner. Throw in the fact that the Twins are a likable bunch of underdogs succeeding against all odds, and you’ve got a great story.
But I’m afraid it’s not enough.
There is one single reason why the Twins must lose. It can be summed up in two words: Their stadium.
Keep in mind that baseball is a game of aesthetics. At its best baseball combines beauty, fluidity, and grace to create art. Unlike in any other sport, this owes in no small part to the game’s environs. For a century authors have penned odes to the “green cathedrals,” paeans to venues like Ebbets and Crosley and Wrigley Fields, not to mention Yankee and Tiger Stadiums. Don’t forget rapturous Fenway or Shibe Parks, nor the Polo Grounds — fabulous architectural delights all.
But the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, which has been home to the Twins for twenty years, is an offense against all aesthetic sensibilities.
For two decades the Twins have held the distinction of having the worst home in baseball. Arguably it is the worst venue in all of professional sports, an inflated monstrosity that blights downtown Minneapolis like a giant bag of microwave popcorn.
Inside is even worse. It is an environment that kills the soul.
For starters, it is a dome, which means no sky and Astroturf. It is a multipurpose stadium. That term can almost always be translated, “Baseball gets shafted.” As a general rule, multipurpose stadiums are usually as good for football as they are lousy for baseball.
Even conceding that all domes are miserable, the Metrodome is distinguished for its particular miserableness. The right field “wall,” such as it is, is a 23-foot high plastic wrap covering thousands of retractable football seats. Fenway Park may have the Green Monster; the Metrodome has a blue lawn and leaf bag.
The wall behind home plate is a rectangular box, maybe ten feet high and thirty feet wide, bordered on either side by giant circular speakers approximately ten feet in diameter. Watching a game on television gives the viewer the feeling the game is being pumped out of a giant boom box.
Perhaps there’s a reason for that. The only virtue attributed to the Metrodome is that it is loud when the house is full. The Twins’ 1987 postseason games at the Dome are said to have set decibel records for sound.
Some might argue that it’s immature to like or dislike baseball franchises based on their stadium, that it’s what happens on the field that counts.
They would be wrong. And it would be a virtual certainty that they have never visited the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which, from a fan’s perspective, is about the least hospitable venue in all of sports. Not only is it wretchedly ugly — from the air-conditioning-supported teflon roof to the exposed concrete columns to the stained turf; not only is it thoroughly devoid even of the slightest hint of charm; it’s also highly uncomfortable. The tiny concourses, in particular, are a nightmare, making Times Square at rush hour seem like a stroll through an empty meadow.
Maybe the worst part is the revolving doors to get in and out of the building. Because the monstrous roof is supported by the air inside the dome, it is imperative the air not escape. So fans enter and exit through doors that prevent too much leakage. The pressure is so enormous that many fans are physically unable to push the doors hard enough to move them. Old people routinely get stuck. Often one sees several people getting together to lay their shoulders into getting a door spinning.
And when it does, a revolving door becomes something of a wind turbine, literally shooting fans out of the building with a blast of air.
Everything about the Metrodome is unsatisfying, from its namesake on down. And when that glorious day comes when it is no longer needed, even that moment will be unsatisfying. Seattle’s Kingdome or Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium or any of the other execrable concrete and steel eyesores that have been replaced by beautiful baseball palaces at least all could be spectacularly disassembled. The Kingdome was dynamited live on national television. But the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome will die with a piffle, like the air being let out of a basketball.
Which is somehow appropriate, because it’s been taking the air out of sports in Minneapolis for two decades and counting.
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