April 4, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; A general viewof the home run sculpture at left center field before the start of opening day game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Just a quick word on the Marlins' new ballpark: Yes, it's tacky. We get it. You can stop now.
There's a large minority of baseball fans who like to complain about things that dare to be different (stadiums, uniforms, Rookie of the Year ballots), and way too many folks whose underwear will be in a bunch until every team wears navy blue and white and plays in a blandly classy retro ballpark, and every journalist puts the same three players on their Rookie of the Year ballot in exactly the same order, based on the number of WAR they have.
These people are the reason so many politicians have the same stupid-looking stiff hairdo and all talk in the same stupid platitudes about Patriotism and Hope and Opportunity. These people are the reason so many American restaurant chains serve flavorless food. These people are the reason Nickelback and The Today Show exist. There is a strong tendency in American culture to pound down that which dares to be quirky or tacky or weird.
Hey, you know what else was quirky and tacky and weird? '80s baseball uniforms. Remember how awesome those were? Like this one? Or this one? Or this one? These uniforms are profoundly ugly, and yet, in their own way, spectacular. The Marlins' new uniforms are closer to those than to those of any current Major League team. There is nothing wrong with bright colors, with angular lines. There is nothing wrong with uniforms that look different from those of other teams, or with stadiums that look different. In fact, they ought to. Marlins Park probably isn't going to age well, just as the SkyDome hasn't, but who cares? I like it, or I like what I've seen of it. It's ridiculous, but it has character, and for the three games a year the Pirates play there, I'm going to enjoy the heck out of it.
This is not exactly a call for baseball teams to return to the joyously wacky uniforms of the 1980s, and certainly not to that decade's toilet-bowl stadiums (which were both anonymous-looking and ugly). It's not even a call for every team to use flamboyant colors. But teams that try to think outside the box should be given the benefit of the doubt, not roundly condemned.
The Pirates have, in a way, been lucky in baseball's culture wars. They have team colors that are both distinctive and classy-looking. They've also got a beautiful retro ballpark that's anything but bland, thanks in part to the skyline outside. But not all teams are so lucky, and I'd much rather they try something like what the Marlins are doing, rather than what the Rays did, going from this to this. Boooooring!
Teams' eagerness to conform and unwillingness to take risks are spreading to the minor leagues, where some teams even play in identical stadiums. (The Lancaster and Inland Empire stadiums in the California League, for example, are almost exactly the same.) There's also a trend toward simple, inoffensive uniforms, usually in red or blue. Even teams that are supposed to be minor feel compelled to dress exactly as they feel they're supposed to.
To this I say: stop. If you are the ten millionth person who feels compelled to point out that the thing in center field in Marlins Park is garish and strange-looking, I humbly submit that it is you, and not the Marlins, who has the problem. KEEP MIAMI WEIRD.