This is a weekly feature in which I (and maybe you, too, readers) detail the various reasons for hating your ballpark. This week: The Atlanta Braves' Turner Field. Photo by Charlie Morn.
New Brave world: Baseball is a popular diversion for the transplanted New England businesspeople known as Atlantans, at least in those odd moments when they're not idling in traffic at the I-85 interchange. Turner Field is made for these people. It is of a piece with its city: bland, corporate, vaguely backward-looking, with a light dusting of half-assed crackerism — John Rocker jerseys, Tomahawk chops, a third baseman named Chipper — to make the place feel identifiably Southern. Like Atlanta itself, whatever character the ballpark may possess was derived largely from the rubble of its former self. Turner, which opened in 1997, is the model mallpark; you can spend an entire afternoon in the fan plaza at the stadium's north end and never have to suffer through the tremendous inconvenience of actually watching a baseball game. The place differs from a Banana Republic only in that a Banana Republic doesn't work so feverishly to sell you so much crap.
There's a lesson here, one that all those Chicagoans clamoring for the 2016 Olympics would do well to heed. The 1996 Summer Olympics dramatically altered the host city, which put itself forever in hock to its corporate community. Atlanta, now brought to you by Coca-Cola. The ballpark that emerged from the wreckage of Centennial Olympic Stadium was a monument to that evolution, edgeless and dull and pimpled with logos. Not even Ted Turner — whose mix of both crass and noble instincts should've made him the prophet to lead America from its stadium malaise — could do anything about that. Here's how the Braves' web site describes The Ted now: "Turner Field combines the nostalgia and the atmosphere of old-time baseball with state-of-the-art family entertainment unlike that of any other park." It's a tribute to Ted Turner's worst impulses, in other words. It's an old movie, sloppily colored in.
The view from the stands (everything sic'd):
It is ironic and a little sad that the park is named for Ted Turner, since little of the zany exuberance or irrepressible joy of its namesake is apparent. Turner Field is, in many ways, the perfect monument to the era of bland professionalism that John Schuerholz helped shape. There is absolutely nothing unique or memorable about Turner Field: no insincere tributes to long-demolished ballparks, no crazily contrived dimensions, no pointless architectural flourishes. It is perfectly serviceable and completely soulless.
Not surprisingly, Turner Field caters to the transplant community it serves. Even the "traditions" are borrowed, as the experience is little more than an a la carte sampling from more baseball-savvy cities: "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" (from the O's), compelled patriotism (from the Yankees; don't go to a Braves game on Sunday if you're remotely free thinking), and the "Day-O" chant from Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song" that's piped into every ballpark in America are all featured.
Turner Field therefore makes a fitting symbol of the city of Atlanta itself: it's nice enough, and often a great place to be, but not really a destination. You visit, enjoy yourself for awhile, then go home and forget about it. (Jason B.)
They started a Home Depot tool race this year. It's just another rip off of Milwaukee's sausage race. But they managed to make it even more phallic than racing sausages. One of the "racers" is a drill mascot. He has a drill bit that flops around like a penis while he is running. It's pretty funny. Here's a video to give you an idea.
(Artie Fufkin, video by Lauren Turbyfield at Braves Love)
I used to live 2 miles east of the stadium and walked to games pretty often. There is exactly ZERO going on around the stadium. The park was supposed to bring life to a part of town that's absolutely ghetto but 10+ years later and still nothing so the closest thing to pregaming you get is showing up 20 minutes before first pitch and sucking down a 6-pack of tall boys by your car and then fending off the bums who are constantly hassling you for money. The only public transportation to the stadium are in the form of a few shuttle buses coming from a subway station 2 miles away so everyone drives there and parks in the massive parking lots, which causes a total traffic nightmare when leaving and epitomizes the fact that everyone in this town drives everywhere to get to anything. And to top it off, the stadium is a non-descript pile of crap. A track stadium converted to a failed retro park that has no distinct charm or qualities besides (drum rollllll).....a large HD screen. (Daz K)
The ushers are tasked with enforcing Jim Crow laws in the upper deck, if you happen to do the move over from the dollar seats OR if any of your friends are black. Somehow the Dance Cam always finds the asshole who won't let go of John Rocker and still has the #49 jersey from 2000 - and the asshole always flashes the whole stadium and shows off his Nazi tats. Thank God Jair Jurrjens now has the uni number.
I hate the kiss cam. My senior year, some friends and I took a trip to ATL. I had brought a lady friend to the park after finals, so of course her nights were pretty free plays into the Southern hatred of things different (read in Southern drawl: queer) by showing two guys of the away team, but alas, my college roommate from Colorado wore a Todd Helton Tennessee throwback (I know, I didn't know they made them either) and I didn't wear any John Rocker stuff . SO, who ends up on the Jumbotron, yep. And yep, I get told by the date girl, "Oh, I didn't know you were gay!" - yeah, FML. Poor Southern girl, didn't know it wasn't the Gay Cam. So, yeah, the whole night I had planned in the hotel took a little longer to happen because I was the gay friend thanks to Liberty Media for stealing the team from Ted Turner and the Kiss Cam. But you know, maybe, in the end, I win.
More hateful Southern-fried hate that was just out there was Chief Nokahoma. The Braves tried to act all progressive by restricting the use of Chief Nokahoma, both in physical form and the logo - to nothing. I'm part Poarch Creek Indian so first of all, we pretty much screwed the Cherokee out of Georgia with some help from Andrew Jackson and fuck, implicit racism is marketing GOLD for Indians who run casinos - and well, hey there is a Golden Moon Casino Level - of Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians fame - so maybe Chief Nokahoma never really left, he just got a job at the Casino? Also, the Florida State tomahawk chop is ruined by moms, kids, senior citizens, and any out of town fans. I have gotten more beer spilled on me by moms trying to keep their kids from having a spasm when the Tool Run happens and the hammer gets decked by the drill. The ATL Gangsta race would be better but I guess having Ludacris, Jermaine Dupri, and other ATL superstars run around the outfield would be like the President going to a town hall in my hometown. (Darren K.)
Truth to tell, I've only been to Turner Field twice and had a good time both times. I think it's a nice park with supportive fans, even if there are more Yankees fans there than Braves fans on any given day. I'm sure the Braves hate never having a home field advantage of any kind, because no one in Atlanta is from here (including me). But the park's only, what...13 years old, so it's in good shape. And I don't care about being able to see the skyline from inside the ballpark, because if I wanted to see that, I could just as easily get caught in traffic between 3 PM and 7 PM each and every weekday. If I'm inside Turner Field, I want to see baseball. I guess the Braves are a reasonable alternative.
Anyway, this is Georgia, so it's not a shock that my story is about racists.
This past Cinco de Mayo (Atlanta has a good-sized Latino population, so it's become an excuse for us to get drunk, too), I was down there with some friends and saw a group of white guys in the next section, dressed in sombreros and white t-shirts with the words "Border Patrol" crudely written across the front, egging on the crowd and trying to get on TV And everyone thought it was hilarious, including the three Puerto Rican cats I was with. They figured, "They're not talking about us. We're not Mexican," and joined in with them. You know, because they don't like Mexicans, either.
There's no punchline or tale of retribution. That's the story. Some white guys and some homemade "Border Patrol" shirts and sombreros on the Mexican Day of Independence. Or whatever Cinco de Mayo is for. For all I know, it was invented by Corona so they could have their own "St. Patrick's Day."
I'm not being judgmental here, because honestly, I was laughing, too. Hell, it was funny. But it was WRONG. And I feel like I need to point that out, so my Mexican friends stay cool. (Tony Majestic)
I'm sure you'll get into why Turner Field sucks, particularly the unreal traffic, hazardous heat, etc. But it should be emphasized the fans there apparently expect baseball to have the excitement of a class on the literature works of Geoffrey Chaucer. The first time I ever went to Turner Field (and I'm not a Braves fan), the Braves hit back-to-back home runs and when my friends and I stood up to clap the second home run coming into home, we were told to sit down. Or the time when Bobby Abreu was playing for the Phils in right field and our section got into an 'Aaaa-bree-uuu' chant (sort of like the Dar-yl chants when Strawberry played for the Mets). Somehow some old fart concocted in his head that we were chanting obscene words and notified the usher. This of course got us chanting Aaaa-bree-uuu even more more and we were escorted out of the Stadium. Meanwhile, most of the fans there are either on their cellphone or waiting in line to get something to eat or to buy some ridiculously overpriced merchandise while the game is going on. (Rich H.)
Went to a game this summer at Turner Field, Braves-Brewers, Tommy Hanson's first start. My entire reason for driving 7 hours was to boo Jeff Francoeur, this double play hitting into, high fastball swinging at waste of a roster spot has been the bane of my existence for the past 2 years. First at bat he comes up to the plate, these people are CHEERING the man with the .240 and .250 obp. He proceeds to hit into 2 double plays, go 0-4 with a strikeout and THEY ARE STILL CHEERING. Not to mention the heat, dear god the sweaty balls that day. (Ben G.)
Turner Field is a wonderful place to spend an evening, so long as it has absolutely nothing to do with baseball. From the moment you enter the stadium, you are bombarded with noises, flashes of color, and stupid shit that makes it virtually impossible to pay attention to the action on the field. Not only does it continue when the inning begins, it keeps going during at bats. Every foul ball that's hit into the stands is greeted by some inane sound effect from the Turner library or elsewhere. The Jetsons theme. Chewbacca. The gulls from "Finding Nemo." Even if it's a hard liner that whacks some unsuspecting old woman in the skull, rest assured you'll hear a giant slide whistle at the moment of contact. It's like a giant episode of Benny Hill, in slow (regular?) motion.
Then there's all the visual shit that distracts you from the game. The enormous, seizure machine known as BravesVision, which is conveniently placed on top of the batters eye to ensure that the entire Braves offense has to play every game looking into the face of a god damn hydrogen bomb. Then there's the Nazi Cow on the roof, which is the single most embarrassing thing in the city of Atlanta not currently airing Thursdays on Bravo. And then, of course, there's the fans. You will be hard pressed to find a group of 25,000 as disinterested in the event they have congregated for than at an Atlanta Braves game. The lone exception is when the Mets, Cubs, Phillies, Red Sox, or Yankees are in town, where Braves fans are always outnumbered. Plus you still see a number of people wearing Jeff Francoeur T-shirts, which as a Braves fan pissed the shit out of me even before he was traded. (Torgo's Executive Powder)
Turner Field sucks because it's not full of Braves fans. It's full of brahsome Mets/Cubs/Phillies/Insert Team Here fans that like to shit on Atlanta and yet curiously, refuse to leave. Delta's ready when you are, asshole.
Braves-Cubs this past June. The Cubs' pitcher has a no-no through about 7. Braves break it up and come roaring back. Francoeur (I KNOW!) homers in the bottom of the 9th to tie it up. Braves win in extras.
Lot of Cub fans there. Obnoxious for 7, eerily silent for the rest of the way. In the middle of the rally, I start a "1908" chant in response to the wildly creative "Let's Go Cubbies" I've heard all night. Asshole Cub fan, with his 6 year old daughter in tow, has been a dick all night. He says, and I swear I'm not kidding, "Shut up. When's the last time you won a division title?" Really dude?
Another Braves fan responds in a salty manner and Cubs guy loses it about how he won't tolerate cussin' in front of his kid (albeit the rule clearly didn't apply to him). Calling him on his hypocrisy, I ask him how many times he sat in the bleachers at Wrigley and said something off-color. He's now fully unhinged and heading for us. Long story short, he gets arrested, 6 year old following all the way.
Only in Atlanta would a story about the Ted sucking cite the behavior of a Cubs fan. Go Braves, fucker. (Aubrey N.)
"The Ted" is named after a former owner who once had newly acquired free agent Andy Messersmith wear number 17 while changing the name on the back of his jersey to "Channel." Those good old days of crass commercialization had a certain charm compared to the new sterile soulless corporate baseball castle brought to you by current Braves owners, Liberty Media.
The following conversation happens nightly. It is one of an estimated 20,000 cell phone conversations that occur whenever the ball is in play at The Ted. For verisimilitude sake, insert the voice of Barry Pepper as Dale Earnhardt:
"Dude. I'm here over in the Sun Trust Level. Where you at? Golden Moon Casino Level? Well, shit. Wanna meet up at Bud Pavilion before the Home Depot Tool Race? My money's on Screw Driver. Who you got?"
When you pass through the front gates of The Ted what do you find? Well, naturally you find what any baseball aficionado would find-a children's theme park featuring the lovable characters from The Cartoon Network. Why? Don't ask why. This is Atlanta. Capital of the New South. Our true God is the Union-Yankee dollar and we worship at the foot of a Chick-fil-a-Cow-God (Baal?) hovering majestically in left field. That's right. Let Boston have The Green Monster. Let Chicago have Ivy. Let the Yankees have Monument Park. We've got Cow-God. He rests next our other major deity-a plastic Coke bottle tower (Babel?). Behold…
What kind of fan-base does this produce? We have diabetes. We drive used Hummers. We wear Polo shirts and frayed hats of our favorite college teams and khakis and believe the earth is 4,000 years old. But mostly, as Braves fans, our greatest passion is to stay at home and watch reruns of Designing Women and Deadliest Catch. Or we go to Stone Mountain Park, former home of the Ku Klux Klan, and watch the Laser Shows and play putt-putt. When it's time to head downtown (Scary! Black! Gay!) and watch the Braves, we're likely on a church bus because First Baptist of Wherever got a good deal on group tickets.
So we'll be there. Every once in a while. And you can count on us to be wearing Red Sox hats and Jeff Franceour jerseys, drinking Coke and dreaming of Chick-fil-A. Just don't expect us to watch the action on the field. We're distracted. The lights are bright. The advertisements, pretty. And Cow God, like Doctor T.J. Eckleberg, is watching. Always watching. (Jerome from Decatur)
Next up: The Kansas City Royals' Kauffman Stadium. Got any horrible experiences to share? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.