And the People Said, "Let there be Beer!!!"
ONLY in Omaha can the people take a perfectly good spectacle of sporting glory like the College World Series, and take it just too far. Only in Nebraska can people complain about how nobody understands what great fans they are, only to take a perfectly good event and turn it into something it never was. Is it big business? Is it just a sign of the times? Nope.
Those of you new to this blog might be thinking, “Whoa there blog guy. What the hell could you possibly have against the CWS?!?! It’s the single greatest sporting event on earth and the most fun you’ll ever have just short of being naked with twins in South Padre” (The rest of you are thinking, “Oh shit, here he goes again.”) Despite my now annual rant against the mockery of humanity that is the CWS, the latest actions by the city of Omaha and the NCAA, have FORCED me to come out of my hole once again, and tell you exactly what you need to know about Omaha’s “Premier athletic event”. (Whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.)
Just to get you up to speed, the NCAA and the City of Omaha are beginning to crack down on the public spectacle that is 13th Street and the Rosenblatt parking lots. I’m not sure if you’ve been to the parking lots around Rosenblatt during the series, but they tend to be filled to the brim with overweight, mini-van driving family guy or preppy, frat-boy-with-hat-turned-around-backward college guy. All of whom have the blood alcohol content of Billy Joel on New Years Eve. Tents line the parking lots hawking everything from bats to keychains to greeting cards. Think of it as baseball-themed Mardi Gras, if it were run by the LSU alumni association, Minot, ND chapter.
It even gets worse for CWS fan. Not only has the city closed the mobile, burbon-soaked refugee camp known as Dingerville, but they’ve also pressured the city to withhold liquor licenses to the many beer gardens in the area. Their goal is to institute a “safe zone” around the stadium, to ensure a more “family friendly” environment for...oh I don't know...families.
In the dog days of February, this of course has been a gold mine for local sports talk radio. 590’s Matt Perrault, (whom I actually enjoy listening to most of the time) has taken literally dozens of calls over the past couple of days, protesting the actions of the NCAA, the City, and CWS Inc for their intrusion into Omaha’s biggest party. Most are angry. Many spit out cliches like, "It's all about money" or "The NCAA only cares about dollars." (No shit? Really?) Some callers are personally devastated Dingerville is gone (Perrault included), and others simply feel the NCAA is sticking their nose in the business of the fan, who's God-given right is to chug Miller Genuine Draft and piss in the trees south of the stadium.
Many of you who have read my work over the years know I am absolutely NO fan of the NCAA. They’re evil. They’re corrupt. They have the Gross Domestic Product bigger than France and they pay zero taxes. They also hide under a cloud of smoke, masking their true greediness under the disguise of “helping student athletes”. They are slimy. They are scum. And I have dealt with them in person for many years. So with all of that, it pains me to actually say this, but here it goes:
You people caused this.
When I was a kid, I enjoyed going to the CWS, because it WAS a family event. It was a great place to hear Lambert Bartak fly through a rendition of “I don’t want her, you can have her, she’s too fat for me” on the grand stadium organ. Funnel Cakes were everywhere. The airspace over the stadium didn't look like O'Hare at 2pm on a Thursday. There may have been 2 or 3 t-shirt stands on the street in front of the stadium. Not a jumbotron was to be found for miles and miles.
But you see, baseball isn’t king anymore. Business is king. And this is where I have a problem with nearly every single whiney ass fan who dials up the phone and calls up a show like Perrault’s to piss and moan. People around Omaha have bragged about what a great "festival" it is…what a social event it is….that they forgot what made the series great in the first place. For some reason, drinking beer in red plastic cups in the parking lot suddenly became more important than enjoying the game. If you disagree, you may say that that sort of feeling still exists; but of course you're probably drunk. Instead, hanging out with a bunch of ZZ-Top look-alikes in a giant mobile home parked in front of Zesto’s has become more important than actually sitting down and watching the game with your dad. Hanging out at Pauli's an puking at 3:30pm on a Tuesday has become more important than the ping of the bat, the roar of the crowd or the hustle of the players.
Hell, when Dingerville started, it was simply a bunch of burnouts hanging out on the street corner because they didn’t want to stand in line for GA. Now they’re some sort of pop-culture icon within the series? Are you serious? These guys?!?! Since when is being from Texas and owning a Winnebago something to envy?
DO NOT get me wrong. I enjoy beer at my sporting event as much as you ever will. I absolutely don’t have any sort of problem whatsoever with alcohol at sporting events…even NCAA sporting events like the Qwest Center or anywhere else. The problem I have is having beer all around the stadium, yet STILL telling people what a great and wholesome FAMILY event the CWS is. It’s not a wholesome family event. It’s a big ass party. Which is fine. However, that’s not what caused that tourney to stick around for 50+ years. The NCAA keeps this thing there two reasons. Number one, the city will do ANYTHING for the NCAA. And number two, because Omaha really was different than all of those other events because it wasn't like what I just described. Somehow, all of that tradition got stuck in traffic, somewhere near 42nd street.
But according to some of you, now it’s supposed to be great because it’s just like an SEC football game with boozing and tailgating? I’d love to go to an SEC football game, and drink with every person I could find before, during and after the game….but if you want to brag what a unique place it is…if you want to brag about how the NCAA should never leave you…then you need to act like a unique and Midwest friendly environment, and not the infield at Talladega. The NCAA would leave Omaha in two seconds if the Lions club of Utica offered enough cash to allow them to fly back and fourth in Dennis Pope’s 747. You see, you can’t have your funnel cake and eat it too.
Oh, and one more thing…to those of you who think NOBODY else would attend CWS games like Omaha residents? Just remember this: The Little League World Series in the middle of nowhere too, and draws MORE fans than the CWS.
And not a beer can be found on gameday.
Just something to think about when Indianapolis holds the press conference in a few years. Hey, at least you'll still have St. Patrick's Day?