Monday, March 31, 2008

The ONLY reason to go to the Coliseum

The last time I was at the LA Memorial Coliseum, UCLA got beat by USC by about 9803672038697 points. My friend Jake and I left at the end of the 3rd quarter and we made a pact that we were never going there again. The benefits simply do not outweigh costs (especially for the case of the ever-under performing UCLA football team).

When another friend, let's call him Alan, asked me to go to the Coliseum to watch a Dodger exhibition game I accepted with more than mild trepidation. The Dodgers are celebrating their 50th anniversary in Los Angeles this year and because they played their first 4 seasons games at the Coliseum before Dodger Stadium was built, they had an exhibition game there Saturday against Boston.

For those who have been to the Coliseum you know that this was not an easy feat. For those that haven't, there are a couple of problems. The major problem stems from the fact that when the Dodgers played there it was a track and field facility, in addition to a football stadium. In the intervening years, USC has built a T&F stadium on campus and the Coliseum was retrofitted to support mostly football (Trojans, Raider, and Rams all played there as well as UCLA for a few years) with the occasional soccer match thrown in, meaning the grass field was reduced in size and more seats added. This totally threw off the dimensions of the baseball field that was constructed for the game; now the left field fence was only about 200 feet from home plate, which is shorter than an official LITTLE LEAGUE field. To make sure people didn't die a mesh net was erected - kind of like Fenway's Green Monster. Or the 'Invisible Monster' of the Coliseum as it were. Center and right field overcompensated for minuscule left and combined to form a veritable ocean of grass. There was also general admission seating beyond the right field fence where the east end zone grandstands usually are.

All told there were over 115,000 people there, which is estimated as the largest crowed to EVER see a baseball game. Pretty cool. I got there 45 minutes beforehand (after watching UCLA DEMOLISH Xavier in basketball and earn a berth to their third consecutive Final Four) and was able to park off Exposition west of USC. For such a large event I was pleasantly surprised at how the streets just a few blocks away were relatively unaffected - Normandie and Exposition were surprisingly free of traffic. I imagine the parking lots at USC and Exposition Park were a nightmare but since I am familiar with the area and don't mind a little walk I had no problems parking for free and getting in a little exercise.

Once I walked to the stadium there were a ton of people still tailgating, there was a crazy line to get in, and ludicrous lines to get beer and snacks. Once I got into the seating are the view of the spectacle was amazing. Having been to a few football games there, I was used to the stadium being full but for USC they generally get about 90,000 and don't fill in all the stands, leaving the seats around the peristyle empty and filling the aforementioned grandstand. It was really neat seeing the entire stadium full and as an added bonus the Olympic torch was lit, which I don't remember seeing before.

The only bad parts were that the game didn't really feel like a game (lots of 'stars' weren't playing), it was hard to see the game and the batter from where we were sitting, and the sound system was TERRIBLE. It can't be easy to have a good sound system for such a large facility but I thought it was especially bad. Singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch was disjointed and there were several times that you couldn't hear the organ music because someone got too close to a microphone on the field and let the entire Coliseum know how terrible their voices were.

As these pictures (which are not mine) show, however, it was a pretty neat spectacle and I'm definitely glad that I was a participant. It got me thinking that the Dodgers should really try to have something like that during every spring training but in different places around LA. For instance, you could do it in the Rose Bowl, Home Depot Center, and maybe even Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, the racetrack at Fontana, or even a college or minor-league stadium. It would be a great way to build Los Angeles loyalties and have funky stories for kids. They probably wouldn't because it wouldn't make any money but I think it would be awesome. Anyway, Go Dodgers!


tannaz said...

'member when this blog was about nachos and not about silly sports? those were good times.

(go bruins!)

BradleyB said...

Would it help if I told you that I ate nachos at San Francisco Saloon while watching all of these UCLA basketball games? Alas the nachos are nothing to write home about. The burgers, however, are delicious. Try the Bruin burger. I got mine with a turkey patty that wasn't too dry. It comes with jack cheese, guac, and bacon. Mmmmmmm.