Saturday, May 12, 2007

Always tenuous: Royals in Chicago

As the Royals are in Chicago -- a lovely city that probably ranks second (or worse) in categories ranging from bars (to New York, obviously), public transportation, professional sports scene, river walk (to San Antonio), shopping district, airport traffic (behind Atlanta), references in songs, etc. -- here's what has to say about U.S. Cellular Field, nee Comiskey:

In place of one of baseball's oldest parks, the White Sox now had one of the most high-tech stadiums in the game. The 1,300,000-square-foot stadium has 12 escalators, 11 elevators, three industrial-strength garbage compactors, a fireworks launching pad beyond center field, and six outdoor pet-check kennels.

What it doesn't have, however, is character. Unless you consider concrete and blue seats character-full. As a college student in Chicago, I attended several White Sox games at The Cell -- and a Marlins-Expos game, too -- including Opening Day 2005 with the Royals in town, so I'm speaking on the blandness of The Cell from firsthand experience. (Nate Silver of BP penned an interesting article about stadium names, and wrote about Kauffman Stadium: "Just one holdout for the old moniker. Whether that’s a show of respect to the philanthropic Kauffman or a show of disrespect to the 'Royals' brand, I’m not certain.") And the name itself -- U.S. Cellular Field -- reeks of so much baldfaced commercialism that the fans have chosen the most destitute, stifling, rimy nickname possible for it: The Cell, which makes me think of this.

I can also tell you the fans I've encountered at The Cell -- usually in the upper deck -- are terrible people. I know they're not representative of all Chicagoans (just some), but they make me hate Chicago. I can recount for you the fistfights, the immature chants, the Cubs abuse (a guy wore a Cubs hat to Opening Day '05, so maybe he was asking for this, but by the middle innings people had thrown all manner of debris at his head), but really, this is all I need to show you:

That is Eric Dybas, a fan who rushed the field on April 15, 2003 and made a beeline for first base umpire Laz Diaz. Why anyone would be dumb enough to attack Diaz, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, is beyond me. But a pretty surreal thing happened as soon as he made contact: the entire Kansas City Royals bench cleared, and soon players were pulling and grabbing at him and stomping on him. Raul Ibanez did that, I think. A few days later, ESPN's Rob Dibble wrote, "It has to stop [rushing the field]. If it doesn't, don't be surprised when one of these big, strong athletes beats a moron to within an inch of his life." Dybas didn't get crippled, but he did get beat pretty badly.

Your fighting Royals, ladies and gents.

Several media outlets described the fan as "attacking" Diaz, though "attack" is giving him too much credit. From where I was sitting, it looked like he ran out intending to give Diaz a hug, only he stumbled before getting there and ended up tugging on Diaz's pants as only a drunk dunderhead could.

Of course, not lost on anyone was the incident just seven months earlier, when a father-son tandem ambushed Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa. This technically happened at "Comiskey Park," so we can't count it against The Cell, but it's the same place. And for assaulting a defenseless 54-year-old, what did William and Michael Ligue get? Thirty months' probation for the elder, five years' probation and 30 hours' community service for the son. Not that surprising, I suppose, considering this was Chicago. And how well did that joke of a punishment work out? William got sent to prison for violating probation, and Michael got arrested for his involvement in a drive-by shooting. Good folks, those Ligues.

I'll be back with a weekend wrap-up after the weekend. The Royals are leading the White Sox right now in the 9th, and Senor Smoke's warming up!

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