Sunday, July 13, 2008

McAfee Coliseum: A Thoroughly Adequate Baseball Experience

Realistically, I was ready to hate McAfee Coliseum. But when I traveled over there this morning for Dave Stewart Retro Jersey day (I was too late to get a jersey. I am still angry about this.) something happened. Something changed. I didn't hate it, and it didn't suck.

Look, the atmosphere is middling to poor at best. They have made some drastic improvements to the place that had miles of foul territory up until recently, but it is still not a great place to watch a game. You are fundamentally disconnected from the action, even in the best seats in the house (not that Mark and I were sitting in them...). But in that way, it reminded me a lot of Yankee Stadium.

Now I know you'll all scream bias when I dump on the Toilet (pun firmly intended), but Yankee Stadium is a fundamentally awful place to watch baseball for the very reason that makes Fenway or AT&T here in San Francisco or Jacobs Field in Cleveland great places to watch baseball. At McAfee, like Yankee Stadium and - actually - like Nationals Park in DC oddly enough, you are so far away from the players and action happening on the field, that it is easy to get distracted, forget about the product on the field, get wrapped up into something else. That kind of thing cannot happen at Fenway or AT&T or Camden Yards, because as a fan in those arenas, you are part of the action. It consumes you. You and your fellow fans rise up and breathe and scream and cheer and boo together. It's the places like those that make baseball special.

Baseball is not special at McAfee. Even just walking through the gigantic concrete behemoth, you understand that the A's are a baseball team playing in a football stadium. The sightlines are wrong. Whole portions of the stadium lie dormant. Your focus is more on the myriad of - just god awful - food and beverage options than on the game. Maybe that's the way they want it, they sell more goods and services and I buy them for lack of anything else to really do. Maybe I'm too much of a purist. Maybe that is just the business of mid-market baseball.

But the stadium - and my ass poor $5 "hot dog" aside - the experience, on balance, was enjoyable. Hell, if you let me go to a baseball game for $9 and not sit behind a pole or look through a peephole or something, I'm taking that deal every day of the week. It was even a good game, Duchscherererererer was dealing, we had two 9th inning rallies, one that won the game, one that fell short, and I got to see K-Rod up close and personal (ok, not THAT close) in the amazing season he's having. It was a thoroughly adequate day out to be sure.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Getting Settled

The tumult of the last month has been such that I haven't been able to properly sit and think and update the way I wanted to, and told you all that I would. However, I am forced to stay at work until 6 tonight, and all my work is done, so you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my efficiency yet again.

I have, at long last, and through great pain, suffering, joy and wonder, arrived and settled in the City by the Bay. The last month has seen me on both coasts, in innumerable airports, bars, offices, apartments, and baseball parks, all in a great quest to get out here, once and for all.

The odyssey began in New York, where I received word, as most of you know, that I would be transitioning into a new role as an Associate with the Innovation and Operations Practice of the Corporate Executive Board. Less than 80 hours after making my acceptance, standing in a suit in Union Square, New York, I was in Waterview, Rosslyn, Virginia, getting oriented to my new position.

The three weeks that followed are largely a blur, thanks to my fellow colleagues who started the same day, and whom I quickly dubbed "The Channel 4 News Team." I assumed the role, of course, of Ron Burgundy, and was helped in my efforts to drink, carouse and generally enjoy life by a merry band of characters, including Champ (Peter), Brian Fantana (Jenny), and Alycia, our very own Brick Tamland. They helped fill three weeks of desperate boredom and hostility, stuck in Rosslyn, with stories that, while not fit for such an austere venue as this, will be shared around watercoolers and campfires for years to come.

My introduction to CEB was a whirlwind of acronyms, scripting, mission statements and goal setting. Trying corporate America on for size has been a relatively smooth transition from the world I had been in; almost as if it were far away, so close. Many of my fears of joining the work-a-day world have been allayed. I don't feel soulless and disgusting, or like a snake-oil salesman, or like a complete failure and sellout. In all honesty, the work we do here has real merit for this economy, and for companies to succeed by working together instead of ripping each other apart. It is not quite the socialist, communitarian utopia, but it's a start.

Much of my wariness of the corporate world has been stopped short by the fact that I am living in an incredibly beautiful and vibrant place. San Francisco is a world city, unparalleled in the opportunities it presents and the culture embodied within it. In the same way that the Obama campaign is the Dean campaign perfected (more on that another time), San Francisco is like Boston perfected. Beautiful weather, wonderful people, laid-back attitude, kickass food and wine, all within reach. And yet with the charm and decency of a insular microculture that no city can match. It rivals Cape Town for me in that. Doesn't beat it, but it does rival it.

I am living in Pacific Heights, just off the quiet bustle of Fillmore Street for the month. I am going to find it tough to leave. Between the burger special at Harry's (hands down best in the city), shopping at Mollie Stone's, or just taking in the views from my window, looking over Alta Plaza Park, I have become enchanted with it already. My checkbook on the other hand...oh well, we won't get into that. I literally found the place at the very last minute. I was 6 hours away from being homeless and I pulled through. What luck. A studio, all to myself, for a month, in the best neighborhood in the city. I can't complain.

All in all, the last month has been completely crazy, but I am looking forward to what's next.

Recent Listenings By The Pink Polo