Quieting The Fans

(Originally posted in the Stratford Star and Fairfield Sun newspapers on July 5, 2012, in my  “Walsh’s Wonderings” column.)

A few weeks ago, the New York Mets asked season ticket holders if they’d be open to the idea of a designated “quiet seating section” at Citi Field. Among its features would be a lowered volume on the PA announcer and the absence of music or cheerleading. This section would be located in the boondocks of the second deck in left field, where the seats normally go for $20 to $78 depending on the opponent. If you were interested, in other words, you’d have to be quiet while complaining about overpaying for your tickets.

Soon, the online world was abuzz with complaints. Why not bring a set of earplugs, they reasoned. Why even go to a ballpark if you don’t want noise? For many, the stadium is the place our wives send us so we don’t look foolish screaming at the TV. The furor died down only after a subsequent press release stated that the purpose of the survey was to investigate ways in which autistic fans could better enjoy the game

Frankly, I never understood what all the fuss was about in the first place. It’s not as if they were asking the whole stadium to go silent. Any Met fan will tell you that our home games have been eerily quiet for years by the time we reach the eighth inning. Heck, any game not pitched by Santana or Dickey this year could be designated an “excitement-free zone.” Who needs a quiet “section” when the entire stadium is the quietest area of New York every time playoff season arrives?

It’s not as if this policy would affect many people, either: the Mets sit comfortably in the bottom half of the league in attendance despite a sparkly new $850 million stadium. My dad would have loved Citi Field; the only reason he took me to Met games was because he hated crowds, and the ridiculous new pricing model they’ve employed ensures more unsold seats than a Paris Hilton concert. Even after reducing capacity by 16,000 seats from the old Shea Stadium, home games at Citi Field have all the excitement of the waiting room for jury duty.

I’ve been a Met fan all my life, but I don’t think they’re going far enough. As long as they’re asking my opinion, how about adding a “limited visibility section” for those of us who can’t bear to watch our bullpen blow another late-inning lead? Or maybe a section that guarantees the people directly behind me won’t carry on a running conversation with the people directly in front of me… for the entire game? I’d pay extra if there were a section that outlawed Yankee fans from reminding me they’ve won 25 more championships than we have, but I’ll settle for a section where the seats swivel so I can watch the US Open over at Arthur Ashe Stadium rather than endure another September meltdown.

Don’t get me wrong—I like the fact that Mets management is reaching out to the fan base to improve the ballpark experience, but don’t insult us. When a burger costs ten bucks, parking is $32, and a ticket around the third base line starts at $225, I need a bank loan—not a quiet zone—to take the family to a game. How about a section of seats we can actually afford? Unfortunately, it looks as though they left all those over at Shea.

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