Joe Lavin

July 2006

From Boston Sports Review

Lights, Camera, Play Ball

Recently, I was lucky enough to get tickets to a Red Sox-Yankees game. Well, sort of. I was lucky enough to get tickets to a Red Sox-Yankees game ... in a movie theater. Yes, the Red Sox have made it to the big screen. In 2004, they began showing select games in high definition in theaters across New England. This year, they plan to show 14 games at Showcase and Cinemagic theaters in 10 different cities. Yankees and Mets games cost $10 each, while all other games cost $7. It sounded like a great idea, and after attending one game I have to say that it's just like being at a ballgame ... that's being shown in a movie theater.

I wanted to enjoy this -- I really did -- but there was just something terribly antiseptic about watching baseball in a movie theater. For one thing, there were the fans. I naively had hoped for a large crowd. Maybe in other cities they get many people, but at this Worcester theater there were only about thirty. It wasn't exactly a bad turnout, but the vast theater still seemed empty.

I expected it to be just like the bleachers, minus the beach balls. Instead, the crowd was perfectly well behaved, with nary an anti-Yankees chant in the house. Even in the best moments of a 9-3 Red Sox victory, there was little more than polite applause. Then again, my father, who had joined me for the occasion, thought that even this was ridiculous. "Why are they cheering? Who's going to hear them?" he asked once. His point was valid, although his assumption that there is always some practical purpose to cheering might be a little flawed.

I wasn't the only one expecting a raucous crowd. A cop had even shown up for crowd control, even though his services were no more needed here than at an afternoon matinee of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. He stood in the back the entire time, overseeing the docile crowd and probably chuckling to himself that he had somehow wrangled an assignment to watch a baseball game. I think he should parlay this into other choice assignments: "You know, Sir, that crowd at Superman Returns could get rowdy...."

The bigger problem is that you actually have to watch the commercials. I knew this beforehand, but I wasn't able to grasp fully the gravity of the situation until after the first Bob's Discount Furniture commercial came on. Let's just say that there is no need whatsoever to see a Bob's Discount Furniture commercial in high definition on a giant movie screen with digital sound. Between innings, I soon felt like a sucker for, in effect, spending $10 to watch commercials.

I have to give them some credit though. The picture was beautiful, and the digital sound was great too. (Unfortunately, it sounded especially great during the impromptu test of the emergency broadcast system in the 4th inning.) The staff also worked hard to create an atmosphere similar to Fenway. There were hot dogs, sausages, and even beer on sale. The alcohol license was limited, however. You could only drink beer in the theater where the game was being shown, so no sneaking a cold one into another movie, no matter how much it might improve the other movie.

According to the press release, "Some theaters even [planned] to spray the auditoriums with the smell of fresh cut grass," though it's likely that this theater was not one of these. I asked the 16-year-old girl at the concession stand about this. She (a.) had never heard of such a plan and (b.) looked at me as if I were completely insane. A few follow-up questions, and she might have called the cop over. If ever someone could have gotten arrested for being lame, I was that man.

As for my father, the next morning he said that his body was so sore that he felt like he had driven all night. He's not used to sitting in one spot for three-and-a-half hours. Neither am I. Until then, I had never realized how many other things I do while watching a game on TV -- reading the paper, surfing the net, writing this column, or just flipping through channels during breaks. At the very least, I could have used a remote control. Maybe they should have given one to a different fan every half-inning, so that we could have seen what else was on.

Picture-in-picture would have been nice too. After all, X-Men 3 was being shown in the theater next door.

©2006 Joe Lavin

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I have written for The Boston Globe Magazine, The Boston Herald, Salon, McSweeney's, The Boston Phoenix, The Globe and Mail, The Montreal Gazette, California Technology News, ComputorEdge, and many other publications. I also write regularly for Boston Sports Review and am included in May Contain Nuts: A Very Loose Canon of American Humor, the third volume in the Mirth of a Nation series. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you enjoy my Internet column. -- Joe Lavin