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The mad-house on Madison; the old Boston Garden; the frozen-tundra of Lambeau Field; the house that Ruth Build. All places where opposing players squirmed at the thought of visiting. There have been horror stories of these places and more when it comes to treatment of visiting players.
Sadly though, we are now easing into a phase in sports where the home-field advantage is declining year by year. There are many factors, and a ton of evidence that we are reaching uncharted territory in this regard.
Why though? Is this thought not one of the most romantic and precious feelings of major sports?
It most definitely is, but what’s happening cannot be stopped and we just need to adapt and realize this is the way of the future.
The modernization of the building
The all-mighty dollar is what Major American Sports is all about, no more-no less. Owners of these multi-million franchises have a business to run and the environment for which they live creates pressure to keep up with others.
The modernization of stadiums and arenas is killing the advantage for the home team. To realize how much activity is in these buildings now, is to not realize that there’s actually a game being played. Restaurants, team shops, bars, playgrounds and anything else you want, they have. These owners make it completely possible to go to a game, and not watch one single minute.
If the type of fan wasn’t enough to live with, the structures of these buildings adds another element. In the old days stadiums used to actually rock. I’m not talking about the noise level. I’m talking about the actual feeling of the stadium about to come down all around you. These places shook and upper levels swayed back and forth.
The buildings were built in a way that captured the noise. They were smaller and more enclosed where the noise was trapped within. Now, with these monsters being built as big and as spacious as they are, the noise escapes the building more freely.
A perfect example of this would be CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Yes it is a new Stadium, but they did it right. If you look at the structure, the upper levels are built in a fashion that traps the noise. The fans embrace it and it gives the Seahawks something very few other teams have: a true home-field advantage still.
The result of CenturyLink Field? A Super Bowl Championship and the best home field advantage in sports. Since moving to this spot in 2002, the Seahawks have an amazing 66-30 record, according to the Seattle Times.
In a depressing comparison, Met-Life stadium (home of the Jets and Giants) was built to be so spacious and enormous, that the noise the fans create disappears into the swampy thin air. And their home records reflect the average.
With these stadiums and arenas costing mega-dollars for the owners, the obvious negative is ticket prices soaring to new highs. The result of this is hardcore fans being priced out of the building and posers (fake fans) coming to the game because it’s simply the place to be seen.
Let’s not forget the price of concessions. Aside from giving the hot dog guy your arm and leg, the $12 beer is hysterical. Giving an arm and a leg would be an improvement.
The loss of “real” fans in these places has it’s great impact, and it’s only going to get worse. When you're in "their world," you do not play by regular rules. "Their world" means you pay what they want, and you do it now. The only way this stops is if people stay at home.
The next time you’re at a ball game do me a favor. Look around for a minute and see what everybody is doing. Are they focusing in on the pitcher/batter battle that’s taking place? No. They are staring down at their phones in a zombie-like trance.
The cell phone is a wonderful thing. But it is perhaps the worst thing that could ever be brought to at a game. People are fixated with these mini-computers. So much so, that they’re more interested in taking a picture of the lovely environment or checking up on their fantasy football team.
The cell phone, along with all the other amenities that these mega buildings offer, absolutely destroys fandom. Baseball is feeling this sentiment so far into the 2014 season.
When glancing at the MLB standings, you think to yourself: what is going on? Only 14 of the 30 teams have a winning record at home, according to MLB.com. That is simply remarkable.
I’m not an old man (despite many arguments from others), but I remember the days of home-field dominance. The quest was always to dominate at home and just get by on the road. We have to such a low point that NBA teams could actually care less about home-court advantage.
Take the 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets for example. Playing out the rest of the regular season would have been a forgone conclusion two decades ago. But what they did was rest all of their stars and instead of playing for the #3 or #4 seed to capture home-court, they sat their guys and graciously took the #6 seed in the East. These teams do not care anymore.
Their punishment? Nothing. It turned out to be a trip to Toronto for Game 7 in their opening round victory against the Raptors.
So the next time you’re at game of your favorite team, realize that this movement is coming fast and furious. It won’t stop. But at the same time, realize that the phones need to be shut off and resistance needs to take place. Scream at the top of your lungs and enjoy yourself watching the actual game. You can take your kids to the playground another day and check your fantasy teams at home.
Once you realize that the New Yankee Stadium has empty seats right behind home plate every game, it becomes shocking. Building these new palaces when it is not necessary, makes you realize it's becoming a very scary, money-grubbing world.