Maybe it’s crazy to look for hidden benefits in all of the recent economic strife, but I try to do it anyway. One of them — and I realize that it may be pie in the sky as opposed to a silver-lined cloud — is the possibility that the bad times may lead to an increase in social equality. I don’t mean direct economic equality really, because we’re not likely to have that, but rather, an increase in the spheres of human activity in which people from disparate backgrounds can meet and interact as equals.
Yes, there have always been havens for the very rich, but it used to be that a far greater proportion of the population had to go down to the post office and wait on line together, or leave from the same train station, or get sick, get better, or die at the same hospitals. It’s only been very recently that anything approaching a significant number of people had the means and inclination to opt-out of public or quasi-public institutions via the purchase of previously exclusive goods or by gating themselves off from the masses in ways both figurative and literal. To put a baseball spin on it, the great grandstand of yesterday has all but disappeared as more and more of us have aspired to luxury boxes and club level seats, usually paid for by corporations rather than ourselves.
I don’t know if such a dynamic has a quantifiable impact on our health as a nation, but it does seem like we’ve lived in an unprecedentedly decadent, and socially-isolating age. On one level I suppose access to the finer things is the very promise of modern capitalism. When I think about it, however, it strikes me that the aspiration for exclusivity flies in the face of the democratic ideals which have made modern capitalism possible. And when I get in such a frame of mind, stories like this make me feel better:
Break out the sunscreen and come hungry for a hot dog or two. Because of the struggling economy, seats on one of those cool rooftops across the street from Wrigley Field can now be yours for a dozen or more Cubs games this season.
The recession has forced companies to scale back-back-back on corporate outings and entertainment, so the owners of one rooftop are getting creative in their efforts to keep people coming by. And they’re going old school to do it, using that tried-and-true method of season ticket deals and inviting regular Joes back up for the fun . . .
. . . The rooftop phenomenon started a few decades ago, when neighborhood residents would tote grills and coolers up to their roofs to watch the Cubs with friends. It brought back memories of an era when fans could peek through knotholes in fences or watch games at the Polo Grounds from behind ropes across the outfield.
Then someone realized there was money on those roofs. Small, friendly get-togethers gave way to corporate bigwigs and bachelor parties shelling out as much as $200 per person for the view, food and drinks. Ratty lawn chairs were replaced with bleachers — two and three decks of them, in places.
I suppose its naive to think that the Wrigley rooftops will ever return to the relatively non-commercial entities they once were — if indeed they ever were — but maybe this is symbolic of something bigger. Maybe the bad times which we’re currently enduring will beat out of us the notion that the professional classes and the moderately well-off are the class-apart we’ve allowed ourselves to believe they (we) are. Maybe some 20 years down the road, when the owners are looking to renovate or replace the stadiums they built in the past two decades, they’ll feel compelled to build in more grandstands and fewer club level seats.