This is a new weekly feature in which I (and maybe you, too, readers) detail the various reasons for hating your ballpark. This week: Nationals Park
Natty blight: There is no more embarrassing franchise in baseball right now than the Nationals, who have a knack for turning everything — their jerseys, their merchandise, their clock, their lack of kosher food concessions, their apparent use of Latin American prospects as ATMs in eyeblack — into fractal symbols of their general incompetence. In that sense, the stadium is of a piece with everything else. The building itself is relatively inoffensive, at least to the extent that it looks like a perfectly reasonable place to set down a DC-10. But as Washington Post critic Philip Kennicott noted, the ballpark is "designed explicitly to take your money," circulating people mindlessly through a maze of stairs and escalators. He calls it "an architecture of distraction," not unlike what you find in a shopping mall. (If you're the sort of person who goes to the ballpark to dick around on a PlayStation, then Nationals Park is for you.) Initially, a lot was made of the glorious views of the DC skyline. It should tell you a great deal about Nationals Park's priorities that for many fans the view of the Capitol is blocked by — what else? — a parking garage.
Triumph of the Will: Hate this ballpark if for no other reason than that fanboy dilettante George Will loves it. "The concept of the park in both the positioning of it for the views and the light and airiness of it is wonderful," he told the Washington Post. "It's the complete reverse of those dual-purpose monstrosities." He means RFK Stadium, which, truth be told, wasn't all that bad. At RFK, the upper deck was at least cantilevered over the field, bringing the cheap seats closer to the action; at Nationals Park, the double-decked luxury suites push the top deck 21 feet higher than it was at RFK. What's worse, the seats in the upper deck are actually narrower than the high-priced seats below. The place is full of this kind of sneaky elitism, which is probably why George Will likes it so much.
Money for nothing: The deal that landed the Nats a lease in DC was so eye-gougingly awful that the fact that it required the appeasement of surly gasbag Peter Angelos isn't even the worst part. What is? Maybe it's the $700 million spent by the District on the ballpark, or maybe the additional $1 billion that went toward infrastructure upgrades in the area. Maybe it's that the lively ballpark village long promised by the stadium's backers has yet to materialize; one official recently described the neighborhood as a "ghost town." Or maybe it's this: At one point last year, the Lerners were withholding $3.5 million in rent to the District that generously furnished their shiny new ballpark. They claimed the stadium was incomplete. This was more than halfway through the season.
Misc.: Three dumb things: Screech the Eagle; this ostensibly licensed, Canal Street knockoff of a toy; and these banners, apparently stolen from the Minnesota Twins.
Testimonials (everything sic'd): "I saw Lindsey Graham on the metro after a game one time. The Braves had just finished giving up another lead to the Nat's multi chinned Cincinnati sluggers and Senator Graham strangled the standing pole with a constipated expression on his face. I'm a Braves fan too, which makes sense for a Washingtonian born in the 70's, and when I caught his eye we had a wonderful 'This too shall pass' moment between us." (Tom R) ... "The whole place is terrible, the neighborhood is terrible, the beer is terrible and the team is terrible. The only thing that makes it worthwhile is yelling 'ZIMMAA' like a moron and seeing the Cardinals once a year." (Spencer) ... "We have our very own Ryan Seacrest, and his name is Clint [who is apparently some sort of host]. We. Hate. Him. The only thing that truly bands all Nats fans together is that we hate Clint more than Peter Angelos himself." (MikeStantonWalkOffBalk)