NO CHEERING IN THE PRESS BOX.
That was my view of the game Monday night, the view from the Citi Field press box.
The Mets PR team invited some bloggers out for what are now regular events; this time we took a food tour of Citi Field (I’m still working on that writeup). At some point during the event, we were extended the opportunity to watch the game from the press box, or to sit in the lovely field level seats provided to us by the Mets.
Almost everyone jumped at the chance to sit in the press box.
I have to admit, walking into the press box was a little intimidating at first. It’s quiet. It’s imposing. It’s unfamiliar – to a certain extent. There’s a locker behind me that reads HOWIE ROSE, stacks of game notes and other photocopied documents on a counter, and the sound of hands clicking away on keyboards.
We were given a brief orientation and explanation of the ground rules: where we can sit, where we can get coffee, who to ask for media guides or more photocopies. If you’ve been in the press box (or any press box, really), you’ve probably noticed that the seating is tiered, rows of counters with chairs behind them. We were allowed to take any seats that weren’t taken, or didn’t have a nameplate, mostly along the top row. We were cautioned that the Mets beat writers were all down at the far end and that they could get cranky if things got too loud, especially on a night where the windows were closed.
And then, of course, there was the most important rule of all: No Cheering In The Press Box. It isn’t just a cute phrase, or something people say, there is, quite literally, no cheering in the press box. I thought I could handle not cheering, it was the groaning at bad calls or missed opportunities or dropped fly balls that I thought would be tough, and most of all, jumping up and down yelling GO GO GO GO GO when Jose Reyes hits a triple or steals a base.
But I was willing to give it a try. The worst that would happen would be that I’d have to go down to the field level to watch the game.
I found a spot in in the top row behind the Marlins beat writers. I was too intimidated to sit in Ed Coleman’s row – one of the spaces that had room – and it was too crowded there anyway, with the other bloggers taking up residence there. I like having room to stretch out anywhere I work, anyway. I put down my camera bag, set up my game notes, pulled out my reporter’s notebook, and got myself a cup of coffee. I tweeted a picture of the view (one of the only shots I took, since I had been told that no photos were allowed), and sat down to watch the grounds crew dry out the field and take a few deep breaths. It was just me, and two other laptops and work spaces on either end of the row.
In between the congratulations and the tweets of jealousy, I was touched to receive several off-the-record messages from beat writers and other reporters with tips about how to survive. I will quote without attribution:
“Key to looking like you belong in press box: suppress all apparent excitement; hope for a fast, unexciting game; pick a player to hate.”
“You know just as much as they do. They just have reps.”
“When something strange happens, look like you’re writing something down. And enjoy.”
All of this served me well, and also served to calm me down (or at least stop my heart from pounding as hard as it was).
Some observations from the night:
- When the announcement came that the game was going to start at 8:30, there was a collective groan, and then, the typical Citi Field reaction: “Hey, let’s go get Shake Shack.”
- It was surprisingly easy to not cheer, groan or curse. You know why? Twitter. I could yell at Willie Harris as much as I wanted on Twitter.
- Speaking of Twitter, it was open on almost every single laptop screen that I could see. (Response from a non-Mets beat writer of my acquaintance: “That’s what we do now.” Mostly I was appalled at how few of them were using a Twitter client and were using the web-based version. Speaking as someone who works in a web browser all day every day, I always opt for the thing I can alt-tab over to, it saves so much time. (I do this, I think about these things.)
- Maybe it is cliched or just my vivid imagination, but there was less interaction between the writers than I thought there would be. There were definite groupings, and they didn’t seem to mix. I know, it’s some black-and-white movie I’m envisioning where all the writers would be wearing suits and fedoras and smoking cigars and trading witty wisecracks.
- It was very, very, very quiet. Some people were working on stories, many had one earbud in one ear (which I tried, using At Bat, but the audio feed is too far behind and it got too confusing). The windows were closed against the weather, which dulled the roar of the crowd and made it impossible to hear Alex Anthony (which could be a blessing in disguise).
- You can’t see Diamondvision or any part of the scoreboard, but there are monitors with SNY.
- Scoring is announced by the Official Scorer over the PA. If I hadn’t been so nervous I would have been keeping score (scoresheets are provided) but after one inning full of mistakes I gave up.
- In some ways it’s harder to follow the game, because you’re not in it; in other ways it was easier, because you had less distractions.
- I didn’t see any other female writers in the press box. Given that I’ve worked with computers and in technology for the better part of the last 15+ years, it isn’t unusual for me to be the only woman in the room, but it was still odd once I realized it.
- To me and to you, baseball is an outdoor experience. What I wear, what I bring, even my shoes and socks are chosen on gameday with the thought of, I am going to be walking a lot and then sitting in a row with beer and peanut shells and I’m not wearing anything good and I’m probably going to wear sneakers and I’m going to be cold so I need layers. I even had TBF meet me outside in the Caesar’s Club to drop off a hoodie and a fleece (because originally I thought the windows would be open). But to the beat writers, it’s not an outdoor activity. They arrive at the ballpark, they go to the clubhouse. They go to the press box. They go to the media hospitality room. They aren’t fighting spilled beer and scorching sun or freezing cold. They are dressed nicely, while I had hair that looked like Medusa from being out in the mist earlier. I wore sneakers and jeans, they were wearing polos or buttondowns and khakis or dress pants. They had nice shoes.
- I walked by Keith Olbermann like FOUR TIMES before Steve Keane of the Kranepool Society pointed him out.
- There really isn’t cheering in the press box, but there are plenty of snarky comments. In so many ways, it was not that much different than being on Twitter during a game, just in real life. They made fun of each other. They made fun of people in the crowd. They made fun of the ballpark and its capacity to eat home runs. I will not steal the line of one writer, who was particular proud of his slogan to describe what happens to balls in our outfield, but I will say that there was much discussion about whether or not to tweet it.
- And finally, they talk about Twitter. They talk about formulating clever tweets. To be fair, it is hard work, especially when you’re trying to cover a game and write whatever else you’re on tap to write that might be due tonight or tomorrow morning at 8:15am.
My blogging compatriots gave up round about the third inning. By that point I had settled in, was comfortable and was even enjoying mysef, so I stayed put. I was trying to figure out how to take a photo of myself for my mom, after watching some writers from Taiwan or Korea (I am not good at telling the characters apart) pose for their own photos. I decided to head downstairs and find TBF at the start of the 7th inning, figuring we’d be close to an exit; that, and we like singing together during the stretch. So I am perfectly happy to take blame for the extra innings, since I jinxed it by going downstairs and then having a lively conversation about how this had actually been a pretty brisk game if you discarded the 1 hour and 20 minute delay.
I never thought I would be interested in sitting in the press box, because so much of what I write about is the experience of being at the game, and not the actual game. And even here, I’m still not writing about the game, but rather about yet another kind of experience. I wish I had had a laptop (I almost had TBF bring mine except I thought the windows would be open and didn’t want to ruin it), I would have had this story up yesterday. It was nice to sit and watch the game with room to work and a flat surface to write on and to not be cold or bothered by idiots in the crowd who are cheering players on by their numbers (because they don’t know who they are) but make snarky comments about you when you don’t get up to cheer a ball heading for the outfield which is very clearly going to be caught. (I hate the fans on the field level, I really, really do.) But it was interesting, it was exciting, and I can definitely think of situations in the future where I’d benefit from the opportunity to sit there again.
But mostly, I think about how awesome it felt to walk in there and take a seat and open up my notebook like I belonged there for a second or two.