Citi Field is state-of-the-art nostalgia (which brings to mind George Carlin’s old routine about “jumbo shrimp”), an amalgam of similar urban ballparks like Camden Yards, the Ballpark at Arlington and Progressive Field, though its spiritual predecessor is Ebbets Field. The results are appealing but also generic. The creative decisions seem arbitrary, like the nooks and crannies in the outfield wall, which don’t serve any other purpose than to add an eccentricity to the playing field. The older ballparks, like Fenway, had such features because they were conforming to a limited urban footprint, not because they deemed them a source of amusement. It is designed like an urban ballpark even though it is sitting in the middle of a wide-open parking lot (talk to the people in Arlington about that incongruity).
The main entrance takes fans through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, a grand civic gesture to one of the game’s true pioneers. It is an airy room, with staircases and escalators on each side. The tribute to Robinson is earnest, handsome and impressive. “It feels like social studies homework,” one fan, an intelligent, liberal New Yorker told me. A giant blue number 42 sits in the middle of the room, the ideal photo op. The blue — which the Mets appropriated from the Brooklyn Dodgers, just as they took their orange from the New York Giants — is the only Mets-related aspect of the room.
And there’s the rub. As tremendous as the Robinson Rotunda is, it seems out of place, even indulgent, because of the lack of corresponding Mets tributes. This is not to suggest that the Mets build a similar monument for Tom Seaver. Yet the lack of balance has left many Mets fans grumbling. The Mets have a history worth celebrating, but its invisibility at Citi Field underscores the organization’s inferiority complex. Perhaps it is a great Freudian slip, Fred Wilpon saying that his team is just a poor stand-in for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the team he’d really want to own.