Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Way of All Flesh

We hardly knew ye...

I have no particular love for the place.  I've been in it, once or twice; most memorably as a child, when it was new (must have been in the '60's, just after it opened) and exciting and it had a scoreboard that could "animate" because of thousands (millions?) of lights run by computer (!) (Hey, I still remember seeing a demonstration of a computer driven loom weaving patterns into fabric as I watched, at a speed no human could match.  In 1968, at the HemisFair in San Antonio.  I'm old....).  But look at that space.  Better yet, look at the AP photo I didn't want to copy, here.

It's almost a cathedral.

Yes, I know, that's an awful metaphor and an even worse cliche.  But look at it.  It's magnificent in its openness, and in high heat high humidity Houston, it was a glorious place to watch a baseball or football game (I watched one of each there, if memory serves).  The seating was comfortable because it could be, never being exposed to the elements.  The air was cool because it had to be.  The vistas were open because it was a marvel of engineering.  And the grass was plastic, because, well....

No, I've never liked Astroturf; and the early versions were basically green bristle over concrete.  Never understood how football players could stand the stuff.

Yes, sports should be played outside.  But come to Houston in August or September and say that.  Winter down here starts when the temperature drops below 75.  The humidity goes below that on rare days in the year.  Almost nothing in Houston should be done outside.

Maybe it's because the Astros by and large sucked, without ever attaining any of the loser charm of more legendary baseball teams; and the Oilers sucked so bad the owner took 'em to Tennessee, where they sucked just as badly (poetic justice!); and now the Texans have a shiny new stadium to continue to disappoint in.  Yes, the Dome was already abandoned when refugees from Katrina found a home there; and it was shuttered altogether in 2009; but it has been "closed" ever since Reliant stadium was built (with public money) on the promise that a new stadium would set all things athletic right in Houston.  That, and a new ballpark for a team so bad they don't deserve a ballpark.

And the new football stadium is ugly and named for a corporation, not a team.  And it's huge:

You can see the 'Dome off to the right there, looking like an annex, like Reliant's little brother.  Reliant is a big ugly thing and all you can do is play football in it, which the Texans can't seem to do at all.  You could put an 18 story building inside the Dome.  You can't even fit a winning football team inside Reliant.  You could use the Dome year 'round, not just a handful of Sundays a year.  There's even more empty space in Reliant, to be put to even less use.

And now it's going to get emptier.

Maybe the county waited too long (the County owns the Dome; quaint concept, what?).  They let the Dome slip from memory until people probably thought it had already been destroyed long ago.  The county certainly didn't think the Dome was worth spending money on anymore.  I suppose four major sports venues were enough; we don't have room for an ex-venue.

I'll be sorry to see it go.  There's something about awe-inspiring spaces that we should treasure more than we do; but so it goes.  We want our awe on the cheap, and we want it at our convenience.  And, especially in Houston, when we move on, we move right over the past as if it was never even there.

1 comment:

  1. I actually remember once seeing the Colt '45s play in the old stadium, a pretty rickety affair, if distant childhood memory is to be believed.

    I also remember the excitement when the Astrodome was built, and once went to see the newly-renamed team with my family, not having any particular interest in baseball, but wanting to see that amazing screen light up with each score. Naturally, the Astros didn't score a single run.

    I pretty much ignore major league sports these days, except for the occasional championship on television (though I remember well when we, as well as the whole relevant universe, were rabid Cowboy fans in the pre-Super Bowl days). Minor leagues are still fun--when I lived in Albuquerque I occasionally enjoyed watching the Isotopes--yes, a minor league baseball team adopting its name from a joke on "The Simpsons." There is also apparently some new sub-minor league team here in Santa Fe called, I think, "Los Fuegos," whose games I've been told are a real hoot. Lots of families who can actually afford to attend, and snow cones.