Five Good and Bad Sideshows At Target Field

Since the Twins aren’t much to watch on the field these days, the sideshows start to take on more significance.  Target Field itself remains a draw.  Witness the fact that we still feel compelled to post Facebook photos of ourselves making the scene at games.    But beyond the overall venue are the sideshows, both the good and the bad:

The Bad

Mascot Race.  For some reason, almost all pro sports teams feel compelled to feature some sort of cartoon figure race.  Whatever charm they once initially had is long gone.  While Target Field’s mascot race is slightly better than Metrodome’s cartoon tire races, it is still very, very lame.  And does anyone else think it’s just a little crooked that Target’s corporate mascot has won more races at Target Field than Babe the Oxe, Squita,  and the others?  The corporate fix is obviously in.  Are you seriously telling me a mosquito can’t move faster than a bull terrier?

Every Day is Veteran’s Day.  Before I get hammered for this, please know that I’m extremely thankful for people who serve in the military, especially when they serve in places and ways the politicians should never have authorized.  Overall, we don’t thank them enough.  Still, the cynic in me wonders if the fact that pro sports corporations honor veterans every single game has something to do with “patriotic by association” brand building.  I hope I’m wrong, but that suspicion eats at me. I’ve worked in PR and marketing long enough to know that such crassness is a distinct possibility.  Yes, honor veterans on Memorial Day, July 4th and other special days.  But when the honoring is done every single game, several times per game, it starts to feel forced, cheapened and self-serving.  I’m sure I’m the minority on this issue.  But there, I said it.

Interlude Music.  I’m very, very old, but even I find myself longing to hear music at the game from the current decade.  Not only am I sick to death of 70s and 80s classic rock staleness, but the songs themselves just don’t fit the Minnesota venue.  “Just a city boy, growing up in South Detroit…”  Hello, can you say “hated division rival?”

The Wave. From a very young age, my kids learned that if they participate in The Wave, it will make them ineligible for 7th inning ice cream, and they will be suspended from attendance to the next game.  Sometimes parenting requires tough love.  The Wave is never acceptable at a baseball game, but the worst is when it is done when the home team is getting hammered.   Serious fans do not participate in expressions of “Yay, we’re so euphoric about being 10 runs down that we’re going absolutely bananas here at Target Field!”

Applause Signs.  The electronic scoreboard prompts to “ make some noise” also brings out my grumpy.  Call me old school, but I feel like fans themselves should decide when they feel like cheering.  And if fans aren’t feeling it – perhaps because the home team is hitting .150 with runners in scoring position – electronic begging comes across as just plain pathetic.

The Good

Kiss Cam. Though I’m strongly opposed to public displays of affection, I confess I’m a complete sap for the Kiss Cam.  From the “awww”-inducing octageneraian pecks to the twenty something’s scandalous tonsil ticklers, that old Kiss Cam always makes me smile, in spite of myself.

Hecklers.  Thousandaires lighting into gazillionaires with a string of creative insults — “I’ve seen snakes with better arms!”  — also brings a smile to my sourpuss face.  I don’t heckle, because my momma brought me up right.  Plus, I genuinely feel like the guys are usually doing their best.  But the fact that the powerless can feel free to let loose on the powerful, without fear that they will be punished for it…  Aint that America?

Kid Preference.  When ball players flip a ball into the stands, it’s almost always to a young kid.  When an adult fan kills himself to haul in a foul ball, they often give it away it to a kid, often a kid they never met before.  This is us at our best.  Would that our  collective fiscal decisions were borne of such magnanimity.

Candid Sales Pitches.  I always bought from the beer vendor who called out “Beer here, fifty-one dollars per six pack,” until he mysteriously disappeared.  I also love “Free Root Beer!  $4.75 delivery.”  Thankfully, that guy is still on the job.  I appreciate candor in the face of thievery.  If only the banksters were that transparent and self-effacing.

Take Me Out To the Ball Game.  I never tire of it.  I always sing it, badly.  That quote “a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day at the office” must have been conceived during the sentimental singing of baseball’s national anthem.  “I don’t care if I never get back” indeed.  Bring us home, Buck:

– Loveland

11 thoughts on “Five Good and Bad Sideshows At Target Field

    1. Erik says:

      Just kidding.

      I disagree on the mascot race though. Inasmuch as some of the stadium side events are done to appeal to people who are ambivalent about baseball, the mascot race is for kids. And that’s OK. Its cute.

      It’s a heckuva venue. If there’s any lingering bad feelings about it having been publicly financed, it’s certainly become a bit impolitic to express that.

  1. Dennis Lang says:

    Beautiful! And how about that Buck O’Neil? The history of the game’s lesser-told story is in those vibrant eyes.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      Isn’t that one of the most magical 33 seconds of video on Earth? “Not much of a singer” my ass.

  2. Jake says:

    I’d vote to put the “Circle Me, Bert” signs in the bad sideshow group. I love funny and/or creative signs at the ballpark (remember “Sweet Music Viola” in the right field upper deck years ago when Frank V pitched?) but this TV gimmick should have been retired years ago.

  3. Expatriate says:

    I love that park, but I really miss interludes of nothing. Stretches of pure ballpark ambience, into which nothing is shoehorned. Last I went, I could barely converse with my son thanks to the loud stream of whatever issuing from wherever.

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      Yeah, there is the sense, maybe especially with the NBA and NFL, that the actual “game” is a diminshing part of the larger spectacle. So, professional sport has redefined itself as being in the entertainment industry. I guess it was inevitable when a basketball player who scores six points a game earns millions annually. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Personally, I like the segment of the Ken Burn’s documentary on baseball where we see the Yankee players taking the subway to the stadium. It’s like they were one of us–sort of. And the game was the thing.

  4. Joe Loveland says:

    Incidentally, I’m on the fence about the tradition of fans in the outfield throwing back home run balls hit by opposing teams.

    One the one hand, it’s a terrific expression of hometown loyalty, and utter disdain for hated rivals. “Take your ball and go home, Yankee. We don’t need your stinkin’ ball.” Love that.

    On the other hand, a fan pays a small fortune to take his family to a game, is lucky enough to get a souvenir for his thrilled kid, and then has tens of thousands of fans pressuring him to give it up. It doesn’t seem fair to the kid or parent.

    Maybe teams should have an Enemy Ball Exchange Program. That is, after an opponents’ homerun, an usher with a Twins autographed ball trades balls with the fan if they throw the opponents’ homerun ball back. I’d feel better about that, and it would be nice PR for our favorite team.

  5. And for those of us watching the games at home, I’d like to request that Bert and Dick can the chatter sometimes…just let the game play out and say something meaningful when something meaningful happens. Remember those good ol’ days of watching ball on TV?

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