Monthly Archives: February 2017

HAVE SPORTS VENUES BECOME DISPOSABLE?

As the Atlanta Falcons were putting the finishing touches on their 44-21 route of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, it signaled an end of an “era.”  Yes it brought down the curtain on the Falcons tenure at the Georgia Dome, but can you really call the closing of a venue that opened in 1992 an era?

A few blocks away another so-called era ended at the end of the 2016 baseball season.  Barely 20 years old, Turner Field (f/k/a Atlanta Olympic Stadium) also closed its doors.

Image result for 1996 olympic stadium                                                          Turner Field as it opened for the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Sun Trust Park, the Braves new home, will open this April at an estimated cost of $672 million.  It is located in suburban Cobb County.  The Falcons will open next season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.  The price tag for their new diggs, a whopping $1.6 billion!

What has happened to our sports venues?  I applaud the Red Sox for keeping up and modernizing 105 year old Fenway Park.  The same can be said for the Chicago Cubs and soon to be 103 year old Wrigley Field.  In eight years Chicago’s Soldier Field will celebrate its 100th anniversary, and is by far the oldest permanent venue in the NFL.

The recent trend in both baseball and football is to get rid of the old “cookie cutter” design.  The thinking in the 1960s and ’70s was to have baseball and football in the same house.  The result was that the sight lines for both sports were less than ideal.  I understand that the cost of putting on professional games have skyrocketed and competition is fierce, but what happened to venues standing the test of time?

The cookie cutters in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Atlanta all lasted roughly 30 years.  Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis lasted 40 years, New York’s Shea Stadium lasted the longest at 45.

Image result for riverfront stadium

Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati.  One of three cookie cutter stadiums that opened in the early 1970s and closed 30 years later.

When ballparks were being replaced after thirty years, I thought, what a shame! Their predecessors stood for over 50 years and had so much history!  Why would you replace a venue after only thirty years and not renovate it for at least one sport?

This latest chapter really floors me!  The Georgia Dome and Turner Field are the first venues that replaced a cookie cutter stadium to close their doors.  The Georgia Dome was the first new venue that opened for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  It opened its doors to the Atlanta Falcons in 1992.  The main Olympic Stadium opened for the 1996 Games and became the Atlanta Braves home the following year.  Can someone tell me how facilities that opened in the 1990s have ended their usefulness?  Am I missing something?

How did we get from ballparks lasting 100 years, to them lasting 20?  The Turner Field scenario is just pure greed!  On top of closing a main stage for an Olympics, the city of Atlanta also let the Braves get away!  Honestly, I side with the city on this one.  How does an owner of a franchise have the audacity to come to a civic government after only 20 years and complain they need a new ballpark?  The Falcons are no better!  25 years? really?

Image result for los angeles coliseum

Los Angeles Coliseum, main stadium for both the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics.

Let’s put this into perspective, Turner Field lasted 21 years including its Olympic life.  North America also has three other former Olympic Stadiums that are still in use.  The Los Angeles Coliseum, which is home to USC football, and temporarily, the Los Angeles Rams opened its doors in 1923.  The Olympic Stadium in Mexico City opened in 1952 and is still in use.  Olympic Stadium in Montreal which opened in 1976, although it doesn’t have a primary tenant at the moment, is still open.  How do you justify closing Atlanta’s stadium after only 20 years?

Judging by what has gone on in Atlanta, it makes me wonder if Wrigley and Fenway are the last of a dying breed.  How long will the relatively recently opened venues last?

Image result for oriole park at camden yardsOriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD.  Home of the Baltimore Orioles.

Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992 (same year as the Georgia Dome) and remains one of the gold standards in baseball.  Dodger Stadium opened before the cookie cutter age and is still going strong.

Does the closing of Turner Field and the Georgia Dome signal a new era of throw away stadiums?

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WEDNESDAY NIGHT BASEBALL A CHANGE IN THE SPORTS SEASON

Now that Sunday’s epic Super Bowl is behind us and the Patriots have partied with their fans, it’s time to turn the page.  Since the National Football League settled on the first Sunday in February to stage it’s championship, it became the perfect lead in to Spring Training.

The transition from football to baseball has become a new tradition on social media.  In the waning moments of the past few Super Bowls, baseball fans post and tweet about how many days it is until pitchers and catchers report.  Major League Baseball, and the teams themselves also take to Facebook and Twitter.

Growing up in Queens Spring Training brought on a different dimension.  Hearing Bob Murphy’s voice on the radio signaled the end of a long cold winter.  Never mind the fact that he was in Florida and it was still wintry in New York.  Murphy’s voice brought about a calm and a warmth that made me think of longer days and nicer weather.  It was a beacon of Spring, a rite of passage that warmer and lighter days were right around the corner.

Image result for Bob MurphyBob Murphy, voice of the New York Mets 1962-2003.

Now that I call South Florida home, February means that baseball begins in my backyard.  Next week pitchers and catchers will convene in Florida and Arizona.  All over both states winter will symbolically end.  The pop of the glove will be heard from Tampa to Port St. Lucie, from Disney World to West Palm Beach.  The desert that houses the greater Phoenix area will also be alive with the sound of baseball!  Soon after, it will be time for the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues to open for business.

A bucket list item for any baseball fan is a trip to either of these two states.  I highly recommend touring the back fields of a team’s training camp.  In a park-like setting you can watch the players go through drills, you can see the pitchers honing their skills in the expanded bullpens.  It’s the best way to meet and greet players.  Most players are available for autographs!  The best thing about this is the price, morning workouts are free and open to the public.

Image result for back fields of roger dean stadium practiceMiami Marlins run an infield drill at Roger Dean Training Complex in Jupiter, FL

The back fields are also the site of “B” games in which younger players, or older invitees play in front of the teams brain trust. These games are almost like an audition for those who may or may not make the opening day roster.  They are played in a very informal setting that is almost Little League like.  In 2004 I experienced a thrill of a lifetime at one of these games.  It was at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida (Spring home of the Marlins and Cardinals), the Marlins were hosting the Mets (who train about an hour up I-95 in Port St. Lucie).  Marlins manager Jack McKeon approached my son and asked him if he would like to be a ball boy!  After my son got settled he was sitting on an upside down sunflower seed pail near the on-deck circle with a few new friends.  Oh and by the way his new buddies were named Jack McKeon, Bill Robinson, and Tony Perez!

As Bob used to say, buckle your seatbelts, and get ready for a ride that starts in Florida and Arizona, goes 162 regular season games and into October!  Will there be another epic season full of surprises like last year?  Only time will tell.

The calendar has turned the page, and the season has changed in the sports world.  The sound of the quarterback calling signals has given way to the pop of the glove and the crack of the bat!  It won’t be long until we hear those wonderful two words “Play Ball!”

AMERICA’S ANNUAL SPORTS EVENT

The calendar has turned to the first Sunday in February.  In the United States of America this Sunday has become an event, a party day.  The National Football League will once again take center stage in America when its conference champions meet to decide an ultimate champion.

This spectacle holds so many memories for all of us.  So many critical moments that have decided a championship, so many memories made on what is perhaps America’s biggest one day stage.

Before unveiling my top five, let’s look back at some general moments.

The biggest moment here in South Florida had to be on January 14, 1973.  The Miami Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII to cap the NFL’s only fully undefeated season to date.

Prior to Super Bowl III, which was two years before the AFL-NFL merger, Joe Namath, quarterback of the AFL Champion New York Jets ran his mouth to the press.  Namath guaranteed a Jets victory over the heavily favored NFL Champion Baltimore Colts.  Joe Willie put his money where his mouth was, the Jets won the game 16-7.  This win put the AFL on the map as an equal to the NFL.

Perhaps the best quarter of a Super Bowl belongs to the Washington Redskins. In Super Bowl XXII, down 10-0 after the first quarter, the Redskins offense, lead by MVP Doug Williams would put up 35 second quarter points.  The ironic thing about this game was it originally had the markings of a Denver blowout.  Williams took over the game at the start of the second frame with an 80 yard touchdown pass to Rickey Sanders.  Washington never looked back and won the game 42-10.

To me Super Bowl XIII may have been one of the greatest offensive shows by two teams.  Terry Bradshaw’s Steelers and Roger Staubach’s Cowboys went tit-for-tat.  Pittsburgh won the game 35-31, the Cowboys were knocking on the door when time ran out.

Those are my general memories.  Now I give you my top five moments.

Image result for lynn swann leaping catch Lynn Swann makes a leaping catch in Super Bowl X

#5 January 18, 1976  Super Bowl X:

In the second quarter of Super Bowl X between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, Terry Bradshaw launched a 53 yard sideline bomb to Lynn Swann.  Swann would leap over the Cowboys defender who deflected the ball and reel it in.  Pittsburgh would win 21-17.

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New York Giants WR David Tyree catches a pass from Eli Manning against his helmet in Super Bowl XLII

#4 February 3, 2008  Super Bowl XLII:

With less than two minutes remaining in Super Bowl XLII and the New England Patriots leading the New York Giants 14-10 the Giants were driving.  On their way to a game winning touchdown, Giants quarterback Eli Manning was being pursued and almost sacked by Patriots defenders.  Manning launched a 32 yard pass that was caught by receiver David Tyree.  Tyree also had a defender on him.  He managed to clutch the football against his helmet and come down with it.  The Giants would go on to win 17-14.  The Super Bowl win ended an undefeated season for the Patriots.

Image result for super bowl 49 interception                        Patriots  Malcom Butler intercepts Seahawks Russell Wilson to seal a Patriots victory

#3 February 1, 2015  Super Bowl XLIX:

With 26 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLIX the Seattle Seahawks had the ball on the New England Patriots 1 yard line. The millions of fans watching were expecting star running back Marshawn Lynch to run up the middle to score a go ahead touchdown.  That was everyone other than the Seahawks brain trust.  Quarterback Russell Wilson attempted a short pass that was picked off by undrafted rookie Malcom Butler, sealing a New England 28-24 win.

Image result for titans come up one yard shortTitans Kevin Dyson is tackled by Rams Mike Jones in Super Bowl XXXIV

#2 January 30, 2000  Super Bo:wl XXXIV

The St. Louis Rams were leading the Tennessee Titans 23-16 with time running out in Super Bowl XXXIV.  With six seconds remaining in the game, the Titans had the ball on the St. Louis 10 yard line.  Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair hit Kevin Dyson up the middle for what seemed to be a game tying touchdown.  Rams linebacker Mike Jones tackled Dyson just short of the goal line to seal a Rams win.

Image result for Scott Norwood wide rightBuffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood misses a potential game winning field goal in Super Bowl XXV

#1 January 27, 1991  Super Bowl XXV:

There have been three game winning field goals in Super Bowl history, but the one that got away ranks as number one.

The Giants were leading the Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV when  Buffalo lined up for a possible game winning 47 yard field goal.  Placekicker Scott Norwood was “money” through most of Buffalo’s season.  Norwood’s kick would sail wide right making the New York Giants Super Bowl champions!  Norwood would never recover his form after missing that field goal.

So what’s in the cards tonight?  Another missed field goal?, another game winning field goal?, another crazy catch?  History will record what happens in Houston this evening.  Enjoy America’s unique sporting event!