Since When Is It Okay for Minute Maid Park to Be Fenway Park South?

Categories: Baseball, Sports

janine turner.jpg
Back in the day, even celebrities like Janine Turner couldn't be shown at Astros games if they were pulling for the opposing team.
I started working with the Astrodome DiamondVision crew on opening day of the 1988 season. And I worked on that video crew, either at the Dome or at Enron Field, through the 2001 season.

For most of that time, we had a few simple edicts to follow. Make sure all of the commercial spots were played. Put hot women and cute kids up on the DiamondVision screens between plays and between innings. When inputting league leaders, if one of the Astros was tied with another player, always list the Astro first. And never, never, NEVER put up on the screens a fan wearing the gear of the opposing club.

But nobody's perfect. Mistakes are made. When we made mistakes, the Astros marketing department made sure to call our booth and let us know in no uncertain terms that we had made a mistake. And nothing set off the marketing folks more than showing a fan in the other team's gear. We even got in trouble for putting Janine Turner up on the big screen back when she was a star on Northern Exposure. Her crime wasn't wearing gear of the opposing team. Her crime was that she was then dating Mark Grace of the Chicago Cubs.

Things have changed in the years since. Rudy Giuliani got to throw out the first pitch when the New York Yankees played the Astros several seasons ago. And this past weekend, while the Boston Red Sox were in town, quizzes geared toward the Red Sox were run on the big screen, fans in Red Sox gear were highlighted, and on Sunday, "Sweet Caroline," a song associated with the Red Sox throughout all of baseball, was played during the game.

I've argued for years that the Astros, both baseball operations and marketing, held the Astros fans in utter contempt. But Astros fans have continued to show up and support the team despite the signings of such guys as Carlos Lee and Kaz Matsui and Woody Williams and Bill Hall. Tickets prices have soared while the in-game experience has become so miserable that only a person with a severe case of ADD can enjoy or appreciate anything going on, what with the constantly blasting loud music, the movie quizzes that have nothing to do with the game, and the absolute inability of a fan to be able to turn a head and escape advertising.

I've been to baseball games in Tampa Bay where, even when the team's good, like now, the only time they can draw fans is if the Red Sox or Yankees are in town. I attended a Rays/Yankee game, and there were about 8,000 Rays and 25,000 Yankee fans, but the Rays staff didn't blast Frank Sinatra over the speakers or highlight New York fans. In fact, I've never been to a ballpark where the home fans were treated with such contempt as the Astros fans were over this weekend.

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But now, the Astros bow down to douchebag Red Sox and Yankee fans.

Some members of the media have essentially told complaining Astros fans to shut up because that's what should be expected when they don't buy tickets and allow Red Sox fans to snap them all up. But that's a bald-faced lie, that's not what is to be expected (and any member of the sports media that's not aware of the association between "Sweet Caroline" and the Red Sox really needs to quit his job). No fan should go to his/her home ballpark and be made to feel like an outcast for not cheering for the visiting fan. The only place, the absolute only place I've been to where the home club has treated its fans with such contempt has been here in Houston.

The Astros, despite being the worst team in baseball, despite fielding the worst team in team history, despite doing absolutely nothing the past six years to improve the team, are still drawing over 25,000 fans a game. They're in the top half of MLB in attendance. Fans are still paying top dollar to watch Brad Mills play Jason Michaels instead of Brett Wallace, and they're still showing up to watch J.A. Happ toss batting practice.

These fans deserve better than to see their home ballpark turned into Fenway Park South. And they definitely deserve better than some loudmouth radio guy belittling everybody who doesn't want to bow down to a bunch of carpetbaggers who won't be seen anywhere near Minute Maid Park the next time the Astros host the Marlins.

There is lots to complain about with the Astros. Like the inability of this team to draw a walk. Like the inability of the bullpen to get outs. Like Ed Wade giving a three-year $15 million contract to Brandon Lyon or giving free agent contracts to Pedro Feliz and Bill Hall. Or Brad Mills benching Brett Wallace against lefties so that Jason Michaels, who is barely hitting over .200, can bat fifth. And I've been ranting about all of this for years. But if it takes the Red Sox becoming the home team over the weekend to be the straw breaking the camel's back, then I'm fine with it.

Astros fans deserve better. And it's finally time they started making their voices heard.

(See a slideshow of game one of the Sox-Stros series here.)

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12 comments
scotter
scotter

John -

I respectfully disagree with the thesis of your article; namely, that to attend a professional baseball game at Minute Maid Park, one should or must be a Houston Astros fan.  I looked high and low on my tickets, and on the Houston Astros website, and did not see that requirement anywhere.  I am not a Houston Astros fan.  I am a baseball fan.  If I choose to pay my hard earned money to attend a baseball game at Minute Maid Park, I should be free to root for the Astros, the Red Sox, or the Durham Bulls if that is my choice.  I am not a Red Sox fan, particularly, but I like, respect and appreciate the effort and money that the Red Sox management puts into placing a quality product on the playing field.  I have not supported the Houston Astros organization for the past several years due to their lack of effort, desire and acumen in fielding a quality product.  In my opinion, Unca Drayton has served us up Wal-Mart product at Bloomingdales prices and managed to convince many of us that we should be greatful that he has.  I am not one of those people. 

So here's the bottom line.  If it were not for the opportunity to root for the Red Sox this past weekend, my money would have stayed in my pocket.  Multiply that by the 25,000 or so of my fellow admirers of the folks from Beantown who were in attendance each game and it becomes well apparent that the Astros organization would be crazy NOT to appreciate our collective economic boost to its wallet.

mollusk
mollusk

With the exception of a couple of the players who just aren't set up that way, it looks like everybody with that organization is mailing it in, getting what they can while they can.  My 2-1/2 season long strike will continue until new ownership is in place, though I suspect that most meaningful changes are going to wait until the off season.  I wasn't this disgusted with McMullen on his way out.

Evan
Evan

Fantastic rant!I was at the game where we won 7-0 against the Rangers, a rare if fantastic victory. However, the various multimedia experiences at the Park seemed utterly disconnected from the rest of the game. I remember back in the Astrodome, they still had various random trivia things on the jumbotron. But they were related to baseball! Now, instead of entertaining and educational questions about random Astros trivia or obscure baseball rules, there are mindless questions about celebrities. It feels like the Astros experience is suffering from the same cost-cutting, lowest common denominator, appealing to generalities that has hit local news coverage. Why pay more to focus on local, specific issues when people will pay the same amount for the same general-interest articles that can run in multiple papers? And why work harder to create a locally-focused Astros when you can just run a mass-appeal program that appeals to no one?

Jeff
Jeff

Thank you for writing this.  It was unbelievable.  I'm still po'd about it. We've got us a lame duck team..I guess I should have expected it. 

n8d0g
n8d0g

I'd like to feel more outraged, but I haven't given a damn what goes on at Minute Maid for years now.  I don't know who Bret Wallace is, and I don't care.  They can hand out free Fleshlights to all the visiting fans for all I care, because the 'Stros aren't getting a dime out of me until they start fielding a major-league ballclub.

KeJo
KeJo

Great rant John,Have you ever been "in your faced" by three 11 year-olds? Ever felt 2 feet tall wearing overpriced Astro gear?From the confident comfort and familiarity of my season seats that I have had since day 1, I politely told these punks several times that they would never get on jumbotron wearing their sox jerseys (despite their obnoxious and persistent efforts most of the game).  When they finally did get on, it was pandemonium in our predominantly Chowder Head subsection.  Much like our team, the owner, the music dude, and the idiot jumbotron manager, I had nothing.  

Wyatt
Wyatt

The people who made this decision are utter pieces of shit.

I don't mean that they're terrible humans. They could be fine family men and women, upstanding citizens, etc etc. But sports-wise, fuck them

JB
JB

I generally think your criticism of the Astros borders on unfair, but you're absolutely right on this one.  That was simply insulting to the team's fans.

RedSox4Life
RedSox4Life

Good point.  Being a New England Sox fan myself, while I was pleasantly surpised to find tickets to the Saturday game for $8, I was even more surprised to see Red Sox Nation out in full force at the game! 

autumn
autumn

did you even read the article?

scotter
scotter

Zoinks!  I got it all right except for one word.  I meant "agree," not "disagree."  Should have proofread more carefully.  I was disagreeing with the commenters, not the author.  My bad!

Wyatt
Wyatt

No, you're right. The Astros should be thankful that better teams come to town. We should play their songs and give their fans free admission and sign over our prospects to them.

Seriously, I agree that there's nothing wrong with going to a team's home game and rooting for the other guys, if those other guys are your preference. But playing a song strongly associated with the other team, in your stadium? That's some weak bullshit. This isn't Little League.

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