The stadium mystique

Behind the Bench/Sports by

I recently had to do a story on the renovated Molson Stadium, so I went to check it out one day. I was moved to recollection as I wandered through the concourses. “Recollection” is an inadequate word; rather, doors in my subconscious opened, emitting rich nostalgic air. I let it out, breathed, and fell under its spell.

I flashed to a Phillies game at Veterans Stadium, one of the first sporting events I ever went to. The lingering smell of fried food in Molson’s concourses reminded me of being an ecstatic four-year-old. My dad had announced a few days beforehand that we were going, and my anticipation began then. The day of the game, I checked the clock 20 times an hour while at school. My disbelief of the whole situation grew, and by the time I got off the school bus I was in a near-trance. Arriving home, I donned Phillies clothing and anointed myself with holy paints, so I might be considered acceptable to the other fans. After waiting in traffic, we emerged into the stadium and I saw the perfectly green field—the Holy of Holies.

It was sensory overload. Not only was the grass greener, the lights were brighter and the crowd was louder. The players weren’t just men in uniforms, they were living myths capable of supernatural feats. The evening promised home runs, French fries, and ice cream; it didn’t matter that I’d probably fall asleep in the seventh inning, or that I’d be carried to the car long before the game reached any resolution.  

The door to Molson field was wide open. I’m always amazed at how easy it is in Canada to walk into places Americans consider forbidden; even the high school near my house in Philly didn’t let anyone on its field.  I stood in the middle of the stadium and dreamed that the stands were filled with 25,000 people paying to see me. I ran toward the end zone, made dazzling spin moves, and faked the roar of a crowd with that whispered “EHHHH” noise. The dream of athletic glory is an ineradicable weed; it can lie dormant for a long time, but never entirely disappears.

Sports are a quasi-religious phenomenon. My closest encounters with power and grace didn’t happen in church, but at Phillies games. I’m still residually awed by the stadium experience. It’s tough not to respond to the grandeur of a sporting event. When people tell me that sports are a waste of money, there’s too much star-struck child in me to agree.