Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series reviewing Major League Baseball stadiums and desperate plea for its fans not to visit all of them. You really do have more important things to do with your life.
In a curiously fractured city, it was somewhat appropriate that I entered its shiny — well, less grimy — baseball stadium by passing a statue of a legendary pitcher/accused anti-Semite.
Until you’ve been to Philadelphia, all a sports fan hears is how awful the fans are. The booing of Santa Claus — which is deplorable. The booing of Destiny’s Child — which is more appropriate. So when I hit up the city, there was part of me which told me to prepare to fight even though I had no rooting interest in either the Phillies or the Brewers.
Look, part of these stadium rankings comes in answering the question: Can you make a lasting memory in the city? And overall, you damn sure can. Philadelphia is a fascinating city.
Citizens Bank Park, for the most part, I can do without.
Here’s what I mean: I started the day by getting the obvious tourist trap spots out of the way. I did see the actual Liberty Bell. Less than a block away, Independence Hall. Even though you’re checking off these things like a to-do list, if you have a brain in your head, you feel compelled to stop. And you think to yourself, “Holy crap! This is where our entire nation came to be.” It does bring about a certain reverence, for all of our flaws.
After that, I went to the Museum of Art. I like art museums. I also like the “Rocky” movies. Those steps? Yep, that was the finish line of Rocky’s daily morning run set to “Gonna Fly Now.” Thank you, Sylvester Stallone, for contributing the training montage to cinematic history. Since then, it was determined that if the character actually trekked that route, Rocky would have ran 15 miles. Yo, Mick, I think I’d prefer women weaken my legs instead.
It is a little silly, though. Everybody runs the steps, turns and throws up their arms in victory. Do they go in the museum? I almost had the place to myself. It was a delightful two hours in there. Wish I could have spent more time.
Can you see where I’m going, though? I don’t simply want to throw out obvious Philadelphia jokes. You can make a memory here.
But those sports fans are a walking punch line. Angry, bitter, with blue-collar hands that presumably forged from an honest-day’s work and ready to fit around any throat.
The stadium itself is a clear upgrade over its predecessor — the concrete multipurpose doughnut called “The Vet” — with its patchwork AstroTurf surface that was a clear and present danger to any athlete with knees. At CBP, the concourses are spacious. There is the typical monument to notable players beyond the outfield fence, Ashburn’s Alley.
The food options are Philly-based, cheesesteaks and whatnot. Few take advantage, though, because tailgating is allowed for the game. By the time you take your seat, you’re pretty hammered.
Which may explain why the employees are so bloody rude. I had been to more than 20 MLB stadiums by the time I got here. This was the first time I left with the distinct impression that the ushers — either gender — were assholes. Short. Curt. I suppose it would be nicer to call them that, but if I paid for a ticket and you’re mean to me, why be polite back?
As for the team, this was before the Phightin’ Phils made a splash for Bryce Harper in free agency. In other words, they were awful then. Now? They can play a little, but they’re not elite by any stretch.
Also, I have one other recollection that has to be mentioned. A WWE event was scheduled across the street that night and in this weird little storage-unit-turned-radio-booth, a pregame show included an interview with wrestling star A.J. Styles. For those of you who don’t follow wrestling, Styles is fantastic at what he does. If it were baseball, he wouldn’t be Babe Ruth but he would be a perennial all-star. When you have someone that good at their job, it would behoove you to do a little research.
Which the announcers didn’t. Their first question was prefaced with “I have never watched wrestling. I don’t like it, but…”
Considering Philadelphia was also the home for a groundbreaking wrestling company, ECW, that held events a mile down the street, that was a curious way to introduce yourself.
But again, fractured. Just like the city. For everything about Philadelphia that is inspiring, there are 1 1/2 things that make you pause and ask “what the f—k?”
So in sum, it’s affordable but rude. Citizens Bank Park is a cleaner, shinier mosh pit in a city that is a coin flip between eminence and ill-repute.
Plan your trip accordingly if you go.