Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Crap Holes We Have Known: Stade Olympique

Ed. Note: Part of a continuing series where FTT throws dirt on the graves of dead stadiums to show that yes, we are freaking old. Enjoy!

Here’s a fun fact. Montreal lead the National League in attendance in 1980. Over 2.5 million came through the turnstiles. You can, as Yogi Berra says, look it up, before I rip your nosehairs out with my bare hands, because I’m not as lovable as people think I am.

Ok, the Mets were terrible that year, and it was a down year for the Dodgers and Reds, the usual attendance powerhouses. The Phillies had exhausted their fan base with playoff failures in ’76, ’77 and ’78, and then crapped the bed entirely in the Pirate’s "We Are Family" year.

But there it is, in black and white, the fact that baseball did work in Quebec, for a good long while. It might not have been the most prosperous market, but it worked well enough until the strike and Expos owner/despot Jeffrey Loria poisoned the well.

After that, Loria put barbed wire around the well, and land mines around the barbed wire, and then released wild dogs that were also carrying land mines, just to be sure. For this, Bud Selig gave him the Commissioner’s Medal of Freedom award, the Florida Marlins, and the 2003 World Series Championship over the Cubs and Yankees, further cementing my belief in the Beavis God.

So by the spring of 1999, that hard 1980 ticket was not, really, much of a problem for a younger DMtShooter (ah, we were all so much younger then) and the patient and kind Mrs. Shooter. We were on our honeymoon in Montreal, also known as The Much More Reasonable And Easier To Get To Quasi-Europe. I highly recommend it.

For seven strong and true days, we wandered the streets loose and unencumbered. We ate succulent meals of aged beef and chateaubriand, filled our goblets (oh, yes, we had goblets) with port and icewine, and engaged in pre-kid honeymoon rutting. We ordered Vietnamese food in French, took to the subways like natives, hit the Napoleon Museum and the ancient cathedrals, rode horse-drawn carriages and tandem bicycles while singing (well, OK, just me), and were, in short, people you’d really want to smack.

We had no cares. It was bliss.

And then a baseball game broke out.

It was a fine Tuesday, about halfway through our trip. We were walking through Montreal’s Botanical Gardens, sampling the full spring fury of late May blooms, as the sun started to set. Slowly, we headed back towards the subway, and a trip back to the hotel area, where dinner at a restaurant to be determined awaited.

That’s when I noticed the Big O. It turned out to be our subway stop. And hey, there’s a baseball game starting. Hey, hon, wanna go? Mrs. Shooter, who was probably drunk on icewine, said sure. I walked up to the counter – wow, no line! -- and asked for their best. After all, what the hell, we're on our honeymoon!

We wound up in the front row for $40 Canadian, or about $8 US at the time. The game turned out to be the Phillies vs. the Expos, the town team that I no longer cared about, against the team that no one cared about. The crowd, counting players, ushers, umpires, clubhouse attendants, broadcast personnel and us, might have been about 2,000 people, though the box score claimed 4,400. The box score is full of crap. I’ve been on planes with more people.

It was spooky and unpleasant. Despite the choice seats, we were still a considerable distance from the field, and the utter lack of crowd noise or outside light made it seem like a baseball snuff film.

Seeing as we were High Rollers, we had the more or less constant attention of a comely waitperson who was clearly just dying for something to do. If this was a Penthouse Forum blog, we’d have given her something to do. But since it’s not, we just kept asking her to bring us Smoked Meat sandwiches (hey now).

The game was notable for the plaintive honking of bored children in the upper decks sounding their plastic Expo horns. Everything was broadcast in both French and English. Sounds echoed for minutes. Even the home plate umpire sounded depressed in his ball and strike calls.

My only strong memory of the actual game was reacting to a blown call at first by starting to yell at the umpire. With decades of training of yelling at tiny specks that were hundreds of feet away in a loud stadium, I started with the time-honored observation about his weight. Mr. Umpire then stared me down, and started heading my way. Mrs. Shooter thoughtfully used the international hand motions of "Hey, it was him, not me," and I hid under the seats until the mean man went away.

What can I tell you – heckling is a whole different ball game in a vacuum. Also, I'm a wuss.

For the record, the Expos won 7-4, as part of their magical 68-94 campaign (the Phils would finish 77-85). I can say that I’ve watched the Phillies lose in two countries and three languages (South Philadelphia Italian is something I love, but it is not English).

We walked out into the perfect Montreal night, never to return.

As always on Crap Holes We Have Known, if you’ve got a different view, we’re eager to hear it, so that we can get what people in pro wrestling call Cheap Heat. Post your impassioned defense, or pile on the corpse, in the comments below.

Coming Up Next Time on Crap Holes We Have Known: Detroit!

1 comment:

Robert said...

We just finished paying for the fucking thing about 2 years ago.
It was built for the '76 Olympics.
What a reaming we took on that.(Speaking for the whole country of Canada here.)