The altar, of course would be the nexus point. That would be the nerve center for what I had in mind. Better yet, the altar, with its railings and comfortable chairs would serve as a Diamond Club-style seating area.
You see, while Monsignor McGovern was telling me I was going to hell (or whatever it was he was saying, I don’t remember because I was busy inside my own head), I was busy imagining the best wiffle ball venue ever. If we could get those pews out of there it would be perfect. Hit one up into the loft and it was a round-tripper. Lace one down the third-base line and into the auxiliary chapel and you have an easy triple.
Of course without the wind the place would be a veritable bandbox, but that’s the nature of wiffle ball in a church, I guess.
Nevertheless, conjuring up elaborate wiffle ball fields was how I spent my Sundays as a kid. That was unless I could sneak out without anyone noticing and stroll over to Smithgall’s Pharmacy where I would spend the dollar that had been earmarked for the collection basket on penny Swedish Fish.
Either that or I would hide out at Chris Bernhardt’s house where we would watch “The Three Stooges” until it was time for me to pretend like I was walking home from church.
But these delusions of wiffle ball were just dreams. There was no way I was ever going to get a chance to build my field in a church unless I somehow bought my own or took over Sacred Heart the way Homer Simpson did that time when he slipped on the ice and forced the Lovejoy’s out.
Who knew that church in Springfield was such a great party pad?
So sacrilegiousness aside, there is no guarantee that the wiffle ball pad would work in the church. It was a dream of a bored guy who couldn’t sneak away to buy 100 red Swedish fish and watch “The Three Stooges.” Ideally, yes, it was perfect, but so was the new Yankee Stadium when it was drawn up. Citizens Bank Park was perfect too, until they started playing games there and realized they had to move the left-field fence back.
In other words taking the game out of its natural state might not always work out. It’s actually a Pandora’s Box. In this case it isn’t removing pews and playing ball in church—it’s playing hockey in a ballpark.
Now playing hockey in the out of doors might very well be an organic setting. I really don’t know because I’m from America and the best chance for me to get ice time was at 5 a.m. at the rink in the old Posey Iron factory. Maybe we could freeze a driveway but never to a state in which it could be skated upon while serving as a place to park cars. Nevertheless, ideally, yes, hockey can be played outdoors.
The Flyers are going to do just that this Friday afternoon when they face the Boston Bruins outdoors at baseball’s cathedral, Fenway Park. The game is called “The Winter Classic” and it’s part of the annual gimmick the NHL puts together by making two teams play a real game in an unorthodox venue.
Or maybe commissioner Gary Bettman was sitting around with nothing to do and dreamed up a way his league could better serve its niche. If that’s the case he came up with a good one because people love it. Actually, they rave about the yearly game held in some other sports’ building. Last year Chicago and Detroit played at Wrigley Field, or as White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen calls it, “a bar.”
I went to a bar and a hockey game broke out…
If people love it I don’t want to be the guy wizzing on the parade, but really, the Winter Classic is a gimmick that truly puts the regional niche that is the NHL in its place in American sports fandom. By that I mean if a league has to take the game out of its normal venue and put it in a baseball or football stadium, then maybe it’s not much of a game to begin with…
Right? After all, look what happened to arena football or, ahem, "slam ball."
With the NHL and the Winter Classic, it’s not the game or the teams that matter—it’s Fenway Park, or Wrigley Field. It's brick walls and architecture. It’s being outdoors in the elements with the wind and the threat of precipitation. It has nothing to do with an actual hockey game because if it did, the NHL would play all its games outdoors in ballparks.
Why just one game?
Besides, once the game starts the folks watching on TV don’t know if the game is at Fenway Park or Maple Leaf Gardens. On TV, it’s just another hockey game. Sure, it might snow or it could even be extremely cold—but who cares?
Meanwhile, in person the sightlines look horrible, kind of like the still photos from The Beatles playing at Shea Stadium back in ’64 where the band was on stage at second base and the audience was packed into the seating area. For the Winter Classic it looks as if the center ice seats are 50 yards away from the glass. What fun is that?
It just looks like… like a gimmick.
Like I said, I don’t want to ruin the fun because it’s kind of cool that the NHL gives its fans what they want. Can you imagine if the NFL or MLB listened to the fans instead of the television networks or advertisers? However, with the Winter Classic there seems to be a sense of “wanting to” more than any other emotions.
You know “wanting to,” right? That’s when you spend a ton of money on tickets to a game or a show and it turns out to be a real dud. But when you go home and people ask how it was, you tell them it was “awesome!” because you spent so much money that you have no other choice than to like it.
Otherwise you’re an idiot for spending all that money on such a bad time.
So let’s try this out—let’s see if the NHL will stop dipping its toe into the deep end with just one piddly little outdoor game. Let’s see them build actual outdoor arenas specifically for hockey. That way they won’t have to poach off of another sport.