Rip-Off Park

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Where is the
love? Tiger Stadium Fan Club cofounder Frank Rashid has lost it
and can't bring it back, as he
tells
Detroit Free Press sportswriter Michael Rosenberg.
The Marygrove College English
and Modern Languages Department chairman's lifelong affection for
the Grand Old Game and his hometown Detroit Tigers unraveled in
2000 when team owner Mike
Ilich
built Comerica Park with public funding. Indeed, Mr. Rashid
has yet to set foot in the park. Readers of this website may be
heartened to know a libertarian ethos, not simple sentimentality,
lends impetus to his high dudgeon. "We became involved because
we wanted to save Tiger Stadium. But what really got me going was
when I realized the extent of the injustice. The middle class and
poor people of Detroit are made to pay taxes to support one of the
wealthiest people in the state of Michigan. It's a very blatant
form of corporate welfare."

He's not alone.
To echo his sentiments and analysis, the public funding of Comerica
Park didn't merely offend my baseball sensibilities — though it
certainly did all that. It was an affront to any reasoning human
being's sense of decency and fair play. To think the State of Michigan
forked over tens of millions of dollars — collected, as with all
taxes, under threats of great bodily harm up to and including death
— to a billionaire pizza magnate (Ilich owns Little Caesar's
Pizza — or Little Greasers, as we used to call them in
my college days) to build a playground for his multimillionaire
ballplayers. Yet local media and civic leaders — the same deep thinkers
who have made it a national pastime to inveigh against "monopolistic"
Microsoft and "exploitative" Wal-Mart — sang hosannas
to Ilich for picking up 50 percent (or so they assured us) of his
own stadium's $350 million construction tab. The mind boggles.

To top it all
off, the State today is facing a budget crisis. It cries poverty.
That $175 million of state and federal stadium subsidies sure would
look good on the black side of the ledger now, wouldn't they? Maybe
in the future our selfless public servants will think twice before
forging sweetheart deals with corporate welfare queens like Ilich.
More likely they'll keep pleading poverty, raising taxes and dreaming
up more boondoggles — and exercising eminent domain to seize our
homes and businesses if we get in the way of their grand designs.

The Tigers
have enjoyed success on the field of late, making it to the World
Series last year before falling to the St. Louis Cardinals. Though
they've faltered since the All-Star break, they look like pennant
contenders this year too. Mr. Rosenberg asks Mr. Rashid how it feels
to turn a blind eye to the heroics of the players donning the Olde
English "D" of his boyhood idols. "It was very strange,"
he says, "but I felt very little interest."

Again, I know
how he feels. Where once I attended a dozen games a year, through
good times and bad, I've set foot in Comerica Park five times in
seven and half seasons. (I can assure Mr. Rashid he's not missing
anything: the place is a monstrosity.) I used to work at a downtown
office building, about a mile from Tiger Stadium, and go to games
on a whim. I'd throw my tie and jacket in the car after work, duck
into a bar for a beer and sandwich, then proceed to the Corner.
From my throne in the bleachers, with the vault of heaven as my
canopy, I'd gaze down upon a veritable field of dreams — a place
where Cobb snarled, where Gehrig wept, where Kaline played the right
field carom. For goodness' sake, Ruth pitched there!

This is what
Ilich has relegated to the wrecking ball. To add injury to insult,
he did it at my expense, enlisting the State's machinery of violence
to extort wealth from the citizenry and transfer it to himself.
You know the culture has degenerated when a Pillar of the Community
embraces the moral code of mobsters.

But one does
not profane the One True Sport with impunity. Paradise, as the late
Bart Giamatti
was fond of stating, derives from a Persian word meaning "enclosed
park." Baseball was intended to be timeless and transcendent.
This is God's game. Judgment will come to the Lords of Baseball.
Walk by any city park on a summer day, and you're as apt to see
youngsters playing soccer as baseball. Soccer! These are
tomorrow's fans today. They won't become tomorrow's fans.

As for the
Tigers, after 35 years of claiming my patronage and allegiance,
they are no more. They might as well play in Tirane, Albania, for
all I care. (The Tirane Tigers — it has a nice ring to it!) I now
spend my summers reading, writing and inculcating moral values to
my young daughter. I remind her, for example, that the Commandment
reads, "Thou Shalt Not Steal," period. There's
no exception for stealing under cover of majority rule or political
pull.

August
21, 2007

Tony
Pivetta [send him mail] lives
in Royal Oak, Michigan, where he pines for a bygone era in which
baseball actively strove to maintain its continuity with its past.
He draws dark parallels between the rise of publicly financed stadiums
and the demise of both the Grand Old Game and the cause of American
liberty.

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