I am in Yellowstone and I have so much to share with you all! However, since I am here, the internet is splotchy and I have no time for writing. So my mentor, Dr. Sarah Fields, wrote a guest blog on our experience together at Coors Field on Saturday June 17, 2017. Dr. Fields is the smartest person I know and one of the most awesome. I am lucky to have her in my life and I am excited for her to share her thoughts with you.
Dr. Fields is a sport researcher and the Associate Dean for Student Success at University of Colorado Denver. She was my professor in three different communications courses, two of them about contemporary issues in sports. For more info read her short bio after and make sure to check out her new book!
I will have more for you tomorrow from me, but for now enjoy!!!
On June 17, 2017, I went with Andy to the Rockies-Giants game in Coors Field. Andy was one of my favorite students and I was happy to have the chance to spend time with him at the game. Before we went, though, I warned him that I wasn’t much of a Rockies fan because I grew up in St. Louis which means, by definition, I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Somehow, it seems like all St. Louisans are Cardinals for life; the city itself seems to be a fan and that certainly contributes to the collective nostalgia that surrounds the team.
Some of my nostalgia and perhaps that of the city’s is because of the long, proud, successful history of the organization which was established in 1882 and (unlike the NFL, ABA, and NHL teams) never left and never threatened to leave during my childhood. The team has won eleven World Series titles overall and played in three World Series in the 1980s when I was a teenager. I watched the Cards win in 1982 on TV and celebrated with my best friend and our families. I watched the team lose the Series in 1985 after Vince Coleman was run over by the tarp during a rain delay and umpire Don Denkinger made a bad call in game 6. I watched most of those games in the electronics department of the now defunct Famous-Barr department store where I worked part time. The store was empty during the games, and most of us left our sections, cheering and moaning as a group in front of the demo tvs. I was in college on the east coast for the 1987 Series, and I still blame the Cardinals’ loss on the Metrodome.
The Clydesdale horses were also part of the lure when I was growing up. Anheuser-Busch owned the team when I was a kid, and the Budweiser Clydesdales were closely affiliated with the team. The horses were at opening day and in all the World Series parades. Who doesn’t love giant horses? Best unofficial mascot ever.
Some of the popularity of the team was the result an ingenious marketing plan. Since 1964, kids in grades 9-12 who earned a certain minimum grade point average got a couple of free tickets to home games. The games were usually crappy day games in the heat of the summer, but when I was in school, those games were the place to be. We’d go with a group of friends who coordinated who got two tickets to which game and wander around the old Busch Stadium, socializing between innings.
Using the classic Sutton et al (1997) criteria of fan identification, I’m now just a social fan with low identification. I can’t remember the last time I paid for a ticket to a game; I’ve not been to the “new” Busch Stadium; and all my St. Louis Cardinals t-shirts are gifts from my mother who buys all her children and grandchildren Cards’ t-shirts when the team wins the World Series.
But I still have a relationship with the team even though I haven’t lived in St. Louis in years. I pay attention to the standings, read the St. Louis paper’s sport section regularly, and I start watching games when the team is in the playoffs. Even here it is hard for me not to write about the team as we, of basking in reflected glory (BIRGing) in their history. One of the weirdest sporting moments of my life was watching the Cardinals win the 2011 World Series by myself in Ohio. My spouse had gone to bed and no one else in Columbus seemed to care; my joy was isolated being away from St. Louis, but yet I knew that the city was celebrating and that helped with my moment of loneliness. I now pay attention to the Cardinals’ minor league affiliates because in 2013 the team drafted Mike Mayers in the third round; he’s with the Memphis Redbirds in AAA this season. Mike is the nephew of some friends of ours, and we watched, from a distance, as he grew up; now we cheer his growth as a player.
So I went with Andy to watch the Rockies that day, just to spend time with him and to see a game and the stadium. Besides, as a Denver resident for the last four years, I deeply admire the Rockies fans’ optimism. I only get worked up about Cardinals’ games in September because I expect the team to be in the playoffs; Rockies fans begin each season convinced that this is the season the team will get to the playoffs and win it all. So far, that early season optimism has crashed by early July when the team has been terrible, but this season, the high fan identification and the optimism of the vested Rockies fans seems more realistic.
The Rockies were founded in 1993 so they and the stadium lack many of the nostalgic touches Seifried and Meyer (2010) have described. Plus, I’m not a Rockies fan so the team can’t count on my personal nostalgia to lure me in. As a result, I viewed the event more objectively and with a little sports studies scholar perspective.
I taught sports law for years, and I can’t help but look at a stadium from a legal perspective. I was impressed with Coors Field’s accessibility. The seating for the disabled was plentiful, had good views, and was in varied locations. I’m not an expert, but stadium seemingly had been built in full compliance of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
I was less impressed with the stadium’s efforts to protect fans from broken bats and balls flying into the stands, although the stadium probably doesn’t have any legal obligation to do more than it is. The so-called “baseball rule” was announced by a Missouri Appellate Court in 1913 after denying damages to a spectator hit by a foul ball. That court concluded that foul balls were part of baseball and being struck by one was a well-known risk of attending games, and that fans chose to sit in areas that were not protected by nets. Throughout the twentieth century most courts adopted the baseball rule. This rule was just another special privilege (like exemption from antitrust law) that baseball as America’s first national pastime has been afforded.
Today though, stadiums are different from 1913; more non-baseball viewing activities are available to distract from the game. Coors Field has cornhole games that are played during the baseball game, but to Coors Field’s credit, they are physically blocked from the field of play. Ironically, the cornhole players in the stadium can’t see the live baseball game at a stadium they paid to enter, but they are protected from flying debris from that game. Those in the stadium, though, also have distractions different from 1913. For example, Coors Field’s wifi was decent, so a person could be looking at Rockies and MLB apps on devices while at the game. Although most courts have continued to uphold the baseball rule, I wonder if that will change as more non-baseball activities are introduced to stadiums.
I was intrigued that even without netting, a kind of group protection occurred. When we were seated on the third baseline in the outfield, a foul ball came towards our section, and the fans in the area collectively oohed and shouted and tracked the arc of the ball which ended up in the deck above us. This sentinel warning of the group might keep the person on the phone a bit safer, provided that there is enough time for the warning.
Overall, my day at the stadium with Andy was great fun. Writing this guest blog has also been interesting; as I’ve processed, I realized how much nostalgia I have for the Cardinals and the past and how much I see more objectively without the lens of nostalgia. I also realize how much of baseball for me has been about socializing, about watching with other people. I suspect that my memories of the Rockies and Coors Field will, in the future, be colored by that day with Andy. Because of my fond recollections of our time together, I may become more nostalgic about and perhaps less detached from the team. I may not actively root for the Rockies in the future, but I’ll be happy for the wins, and I won’t root against them. Unless, of course, they are playing the Cardinals.
Sarah K. Fields is the Associate Dean for Student Success in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and an Associate Professor in the Communication Department at the University of Colorado Denver. She earned a BA from Yale University, a JD from Washington University in St. Louis, an MA from Washington State University, and a PhD from the University of Iowa. She was previously on the faculty in the Sport Management/Sport Studies programs at the Ohio State University and the University of Georgia. Her research broadly examines the intersection of sport and American culture. More specifically her work explores gender equity laws including Title IX and the 14th Amendment as well as laws related to the rights of personality. Additionally, she researches sports-related injuries like concussions and the role of gender, culture, and law in diagnosis and treatment. An award-winning teacher, she has recently taught courses on Communication and Sport and Famous US trials. She is author/co-author of over sixty articles and book chapters in publications ranging from the Journal of Sport History to JAMA Pediatrics. She is the author of Game Faces: Sport Celebrity and the Laws of Reputation (2016) and Female Gladiators: Gender, Law, and Contact Sport in America (2005). She co-edited with Samuel O. Regalado Sports and the Law: Historical and Cultural Intersections (2014).