Miller Park is the third brewery-sponsored stadium visit in four days, which is a much better way of naming your ballpark than letting a phone company or bank get their hands on it. And if a city is going to call their team the Brewers, and is based in a state where all people seem to do is drink beer all day, then it makes perfect sense to me.
I got there a few hours before the game started, so took a lot of pleasure watching the hardcore fans tailgating in the parking lot. It was only 4pm and already a mountain of hot dogs and a small lake of beer had been consumed. This was going to be fun!
The stadium itself has got a retractable roof, due to the dodgy nature of
Milwaukee’s weather for a lot of the year. It’s a very nifty
peacock tail design, and was closed before the game due to yet another thunderstorm
warning. Fortunately the storm never happened so the roof was opened and
everybody was able to get sizzled in the open air. The Brewers were playing
the Evil Empire of the New York Yankees, which meant that as a ‘marquee’ game
the ticket prices were higher than usual, but a seat with the reptiles in
the bleachers was still cheap.
Also entertaining to watch before the game was the media circus that follows the Yankees wherever they go. The two teams were milling around their dugouts, with hundreds of people gathered around trying to get pictures of Yankees players, and one young boy next to the home dugout. He moved when a kind friend told him that he was asking Brewers players for autographs, and what on earth was he doing?
The fans at Brewers games certainly enjoy themselves. And what is the best way to enjoy yourself if your team isn’t any good? Get steaming drunk well before any action takes place on the field! In the bleachers there were a couple of groups in particular; one wearing yellow shirts with the letter ‘O’ on them, with one member taking things one step further by wearing a Wisconsin ‘cheesehead’ hat. Apparently one of the Brewers players has a name that begins with ‘O’, and each time he comes to bat they all stand up and chant ‘O’ repeatedly. Terrific! Another mob were all wearing foam ‘beer keg’ hats, and spent the majority of the game trying to get the crowd to do ‘the wave’. When encouragement failed, they reverted to more direct methods of persuasion; the phrase “Do the wave, you douche-bags” was a popular one.
The game itself was fine, with a couple of players ejected and lots of booing, but way more entertainment was to be found by watching the crowd. If the fans are to believed, everything and everybody in the world “sucks”. And if you’re anything to do with the Yankees, you suck twice as much! At one point even the man selling beer in the aisles, no doubt fresh from sampling some of his own wares, stumbled and fell over. After a few anxious seconds he got up, to lots of cheering and a shout of “He’s okay. The beer dude is okay. And the beer is okay as well”. Once again followed by more cheering!
Whereas most teams have some kind of pre-determined electronic ‘race’ displayed on the big screen for the crowd to cheer on, the Brewers effort is way ahead of all of the competition. Instead of computerising everything, they dress four people up in ridiculous sausage costumes and make them run around the field, just like ‘It’s a Knockout’ used to do in the 1980’s. Stuart Hall and Eddie Waring would love this! Strangely, the team appears to be keeping score of how many times each different sausage has won the race this season. And even more strange was the usher, who informed me that the race was ‘a fix’ and there was no way that the bratwurst should have been overtaken by the hot dog. He really should get out more!
Forget the baseball side of things and come to a game in Milwaukee. It helps if you have a few beers so you’re not left too far behind, but the entertainment level is of the highest quality!
Green Bay, Wisconsin
The ONLY reason to trek up to Green Bay is to go and see Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers football team. It also seems that the only reason to live in Green Bay is to go to Lambeau Field to watch the Green Bay Packers football team. The population of the town (it’s not really even a city) is around 100,000, but during the football season over 70,000 of them make the pilgrimage to see the Packers play. It is a bizarre setup where pretty much everyone in the town is involved in one way or another with a major sporting team. The Packers are also the only franchise that does not have a single owner; they are actually owned by the people and so are responsible for all the funding needed by the team. A few years ago they voted for a plan to raise local taxes so that the existing stadium could be improved to generate enough revenue to allow the team to survive.
The capacity of the stadium is around 70,000, and pretty much every seat is taken up by season ticket holders. Not only that, but there are 83,000 people on the waiting list for season tickets, so the demand for season tickets is far greater than the entire population of the town. Last year there was a turnover of a mere fourteen season tickets. The chap guiding the tour gave the example that a fifteen year old boy who joined the season ticket waiting list today would probably get tickets by the time they were seventy!
The stadium itself is quite impressive, but wandering around you get more of a feeling of the tradition of the place rather than its size or how it looks. And it’s nice that instead of knocking down the whole thing and building lots of corporate hospitality suites, they have found a way to build the private boxes around the top of the existing structure. So while the real fans still get to sit on their metal benches in minus fifty degree weather up here in the ‘frozen tundra’, a corporate box (of which there are several hundred) costs around $100,000 per season. For ten games! That’s around $500 per person per game, and for that they don’t even feed you! And of course there are several hundred more companies on the waiting list for these as well!
One of the ‘erotic gentlemen’s establishments’ in Green Bay, in fact probably the only ‘erotic gentlemen’s establishment’ in Green Bay is called ‘Beansnappers’. I have heard that there are a few things that you can do with beans, but I wouldn’t have imagined that snapping would be one of them.
One place where there isn’t a lifelong wait to get hold of tickets is at the local minor league baseball team, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Judging by the team logo, a Timber Rattler is some kind of snake, so why there was an eight foot tall inflatable man walking around outside the stadium before the game persuading people to come in is beyond me. The person inside the costume (I wonder what occupation he puts in his passport?) seemed to be struggling a bit with the wind, as he was staggering a lot and occasionally the weight of his inflatable head would be too much for him to support and it would rock backwards as if he had been punched in the pace (by a nine foot tall inflatable boxer, probably). I watched him terrorise a few small children for a while, then wandered inside to see what was going on.
It had been a hot and steamy day, and because the Dream Machine had bee the lucky host of my close company for the past few weeks, I thought I would open a couple of windows to ‘let it breathe’. Then it was time to grab some pizza and a beer, push some small children out of the way to make sure of getting my game day giveaway prize (I didn’t want a repeat of the ‘Darth Tater’ incident!), and find my seat. No sooner had I plonked myself down and started to fill my fat face with junk food than the first few raindrops started to fall. It wasn’t too heavy at first, but within a few minutes the sky was black and it was p-p-persistenting it down. Strange what beer and pizza can do to your short-term memory, but I had completely forgotten that I had left the Dream Machine windows open (not that it would have made any difference – I wasn’t going outside in the pouring rain to close them and risk some Herbert claiming my supper).
As well as the staggering inflatable man outside the stadium, the Timber Rattlers also have a mascot inside the stadium. This one is called ‘Fang’ and vaguely resembles a snake. At least it looks like a snake that has been squashed by a truck and stuffed by an untalented taxidermist who is more used to stuffing hippos. But this grotesque figure at least had little or no problem frightening small children, so he was worth watching for a while.
Being a minor league setup, there were countless promotions taking place all the way through the game. The local correctional institute has block-booked a number of seats (I don’t know if it was a day trip for the staff or for the inmates). And unfortunately I was a day early for the ‘Yung Chi Chen free poster giveaway’ and a day late for ‘Piggly Wiggly fireworks’, but was more than compensated by the ‘Boney Billy lean, mean, get-on-base machine flying sausages promotion’, whereby each time a particular player got on base, Fang the mascot would stand on top of one of the dugouts and fire sausages into the crowd. It was all very disturbing!