As you may have heard, out-of-town media members don’t always have the nicest things to say about Nationals fans, or about Nationals Park. This week brought an unusually harsh critique from Joe Starkey, a Pittsburgh writer and radio host, who visited Nats Park for a Pirates game over the weekend. Turns out he didn’t fall in love with our little oasis on South Capitol Street.
“I hated the place,” Starkey said on 93.7 The Fan. “Who’s the idiot who built that place anyway? One of the most beautiful cities in America — and I realize you can only plan so much, not everybody can do it the way Pittsburgh did, with the beautiful skyline — [but] there is a parking garage in left field. That’s what you see. A parking garage. The whole place stinks.”
Now, as someone who identifies quite a bit with both Nationals fans and Nationals Park, I don’t love hearing this (pretty common) criticism. On the other hand, taking great offense at the deliberately provocative comments of an out-of-town radio guy is probably something best left to, say, Jacksonville rather than D.C. We’re the large and metropolitan capital city! We’re supposed to just ignore out-of-town radio guys! But I’ve chosen not to, because of
my deep commitment to exploring the architectural and land-use complexities of modern stadium design page views.
Though I also think a stadium’s issues may be overlooked when you have a certain fondness for things that have happened there. RFK Stadium was no treasure, but tens of thousands of Washingtonians loved it in the 1980s, and love it still, because happy things happened there. My wife, daughter and I had some great times at Nationals Park over the last two years; when I walked out for the last time last fall, I even felt a bit emotional. Not because of the parking garage in left field. Just because nice things had happened there.
Not for Starkey, though.
“The Nationals usher staff is a little bit over enthusiastic, I’ll say that,” he said, explaining how he tried to place his daughter on one of the park’s drink ledges during Saturday night’s rain delay. “Somebody comes over — no, she can’t sit there. Like, okay; I can lean on it with my arms, but I can’t put a little person [there]? Okaay, fine. Then we get to our seats, I’m with my nephew Danny, we’re in Row A in right field, behind Bryce Harper. [The nephew] puts his feet up on the railing. A guy comes down, says you can’t do that.
“Now I’m already irritated because we’re an hour into a rain delay; I said what are you talking about he can’t put his feet up? What do you mean? He said well, maybe a ball might come through. I said really, over the scoreboard and through a railing? I said look up and down Row A, are you telling me nobody can put their feet on the railing? You’re going to spend the whole game yelling at people? He said well, people who sit here know. I said the same people sit in Row A every game? It got escalated in a hurry. These people were way, what’s the word, vigilant? Over-vigilant? Hyper-vigilant, that’s the word.”
This, of course, is a complaint many Nats fans have had: that behavior at Nats game is too tightly controlled. Others, on the other hand, have praised the ushers for keeping behavior in line and enforcing a family-friendly atmosphere. And a critique from a Nats fan might sound differently than a critique from a Pirates fan who also told the story of snatching a 50-50 ball from a “brat” who was cheering for the Nats and giving it to his daughter in her Andrew McCutchen jersey, as Pirates fans cheered.
Take this all with a grain of salt, in other words. Lots of saltiness out there. Anyhow, this blog will remain your home for everything terrible said about Nationals Park.