1980s vs. Today: Ballpark experience   

Updated: June 5, 2008, 12:44 PM ET

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The 1980s vs. Today
Was the sports world better back in the 1980s? Or are we better off today? Page 2 has the answers, specifically looking at …

Weinreb: Comparing/contrasting cheating in the '80s versus today

The ballpark experience
The sports media
The SI swimsuit issue
Sports video games
Superstar athletes
Fantasy games
Lakers vs. Celtics

One way to describe sports facilities in the 1980s is "multipurpose." Roughly half the stadiums were used for both baseball and football. Another word would be "roofed" -- there were six domes, including two built during that decade. Another would be "circular," the most common design. Other descriptions include "practical," "functional," "sensible," "efficient" and perhaps most accurately, "ugly." But what can you expect from a decade best known for giving us pastel sweaters?

Pros: A friend remembers that at Seattle's Kingdome, if you had a ticket for a Mariners game you didn't attend, you could use the ticket for an unreserved seat to another game. So yes, tickets were somewhat cheaper back then. More importantly, taxpayers weren't on the hook for construction costs to the extent they are today. Seats were often closer to the field than they are now as well. Some of the most cherished ballparks and arenas (Tiger Stadium, old Comiskey Park, the old Boston Garden) were still in use. As amazing as it seems now, you could actually hold a conversation with the person next to you during a basketball game without screaming to be heard above the arena noise. And best of all, you knew a stadium's name.

Cons: You could buy any food from the concession stand you wanted -- as long as it was an overpriced hot dog. Worse, you had to fight your way through narrow concourses for the privilege of standing in concession and bathroom lines. And if you missed a play while in line (which you often did, because you were probably in line at the bathroom)? Tough, because replays were either limited or entirely unavailable.

Veterans Stadium

AP Photo/Amy Sancetta

Ah, the old multi-purpose Veterans Stadium.

As the '80s drew to a close, work began on Camden Yards, the ballpark that would become the current luxurious standard. Baseball's retro parks are designed to capture the best features of the old classics -- but with more (and cleaner) bathrooms along with better beer. Mostly, the new stadiums are designed to make lots and lots of money for the owners.

Pros: Almost everything, aside from the ticket prices, is superior today. The stadiums are almost decadent in their comforts and features. Hungry? There are enough concession stands, restaurants and microbreweries to satisfy the most extreme foodie. The concourses are wide, and lined with TV monitors so you never miss a play. But if you do turn your head during the action, don't worry. You can just watch the replay on the 100-yard-wide HD video screen. Oh, and the between-inning scoreboard races are much more realistic.

Cons: Nothing, other than the fact that you need to take out a second mortgage to buy a ticket, and even then you'll still need to sell your plasma TV to cover the Ticketmaster "convenience" charges. And once inside, teams deafen you with constant loud music, blind you with advertising and segregate you with not just luxury suites but entire luxury "club" levels. And did we mention the ticket prices?

VERDICT:Today's experience is the clear winner -- as long as you can afford it. But if you're mostly interested in seeing, you know, what happens on the field rather than paying $20 for a microbrew and a crab cake sandwich, then you just might have been better served by one of the old stadiums that had more seats and cheaper tickets.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.


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