Last night, Mindy and I and our boys drove up to Baltimore to see the Orioles beat the Yankees 9-4. The game was closer than the final score made it appear, was very exciting, and mostly well-played. I really love watching major league baseball games. The pace is just right. I’m not on the edge of my seat at every moment but there’s more than enough action. In every game, remarkable athletes display extraordinary skills. Of course the same could be said about football but there’s a subtlety to baseball that is often missing from the gridiron.
On the drive home, Mindy commented on Oriole third baseman Manny Machado’s brilliant base-running. Describing a play within a play that utterly eluded me while it transpired, Mindy noted that after Machado hit an RBI single to left field with a runner on second, he turned toward second base and waited and watched. The instant Yankee left fielder Brett Gardner threw futilely to the plate, Machado advanced easily on the fielder’s choice.
We got very good seats on StubHub and given the quality of the game, I don’t begrudge the relatively steep price. I note that Camden Yards is one of the least expensive major league parks. Still, the Yankees were the opponents and that probably added $25 to the cost of each ducat.
My beef is not over the cost of the game, it is that after spending close to $100 per person for three hours of entertainment the experience should be well-nigh perfect. In one salient respect, the Orioles failed us miserably. From the moment we entered the ballpark at around 6:30pm, until we left over four hours later, the Baltimore ball club assaulted us with amped-up pop and rock music. It just kept coming from the rows of speakers that line every available wall on the grounds. It didn’t matter whether we were walking just beyond the outfield seats by the Eutaw Street food and beer stands, headed to our seats within the cavernous park, or in our outside seats. I couldn’t even peacefully browse the plaques commemorating past Oriole greats because of the ear-splitting sound bouncing off the Eutaw Street warehouse’s brick face.
The only respites came during action on the field. But once a play was over, the aural assault picked right up. Within innings between innings, it didn’t matter. The Orioles are hardly the only team to practice this form of torture on their customers. Otherwise fond memories of Coors Field in Denver, Citizens Bank Park in Philly, Nats Field in DC, and perhaps worst of all, the Mets’ Citi Field, are all marred by memories of deafening audio.
I can’t believe I’m the only person who finds the volume volley offensive. In fact, I’m sure many fans, like me, would go to more games if they weren’t likely to leave with a splitting headache. My guess is that the music offends many others even more since it seems that the selections are mostly targeted to my white male baby-boomer demographic – i.e., 60s, 70s, and early-80s pop and rock standards. The lords of baseball aren’t even considering fans of urban contemporary and country when making out their playlists.
So, why do they do it? Why do they inflict pain on all – even those of us who enjoy the over-familiar tunes? Well the answer isn’t hard to find or even a little bit surprising. Due to heightened stress and anxiety, people in ultra-loud environments, drink more, and they drink faster. With 20-30,000 or more people at each game and beers selling at a minimum of $8 per 16 oz beer, the resulting increased profits from loud music drive the teams’ behavior.
What’s the solution? Libertarians would argue there’s no problem. After all, they’d say, you’re free to go or not go to any event you like and the owner of the team is free to do whatever he likes and will result in the greatest profit. If he pursues a bad business strategy, he will lose money as people will gravitate to or even create alternatives. Yeah right. Anybody can just go ahead and build a new ballpark, fill it with major league players and crash the Major League Baseball party.
Obviously, baseball owners are maximizing their profits at the expense of the emotional and physical well-being of loyal customers/die-hard baseball fans. To prevent this exploitation, government must step in and set reasonably low decibel levels for all artificial noise generated at the stadium before and after the game and ban it altogether while the game is being played.
While we’re at it, one more thing that needs to be legislated: free or low cost tickets for the residents of the low-income neighborhoods that surround many of these playgrounds for the rich and famous.