The 700 Level (the infamous upper section of the Vet for which this blog was named, not the blog itself) was notorious for its lawlessness, its dumptruck-looking fans and its constant smell of urine and disappointment.
My favorite 700 Level memory (again, the Hamsterdam of the old stadium, not the incredibly successful blog staffed by the city’s best-looking writers) came at an Eagles game in the middle of winter, when I saw a guy sneak a toaster oven up to his seat (not sure if he was looking to heat up his gloves or bake some Stouffer’s french bread pizza), but when he got there he realized that he forgot his extension cord back at his car. So instead of shrugging his shoulders and moving on with his life like a normal person would do, he chucked the toaster oven over the railing in front of him and down 50 feet below onto the head of an unsuspecting Redskins fan.
Now while that story is mostly made up (I did once see a guy sneak a toaster oven in, but I blacked out before I could see what he did with it) you must admit that based on what you know about The 700 Level, it might be true. In fact, it perfectly exemplifies the ridiculousness of the Vet experience. However (big however here!), the 700 Level, when not being used as a giant urinal for Eagles fans, was also used as a giant urinal for Phillies fans. And during disgusting summer days, The 700 Level’s high altitude and cool breezes became an oasis of calm and tranquility. An empty sanctuary to escape the chaos of the city, while catching stage-4 melanoma because of its close proximity to the sun.
Before the Phillies were good (and I recognize that the Phillies are no longer good, but before they were bad, they were good, like, very good, so before that), you could roll up to the Vet five minutes before opening pitch and get a ticket to the game. And not just any ticket -- a $5 ticket. I’m not talkin’ back at Connie Mack Stadium in 19 ought 6. I’m talkin’ 13 years ago. 2003. When toaster ovens were still a thing.
All you had to do was give a guy five American dollars (and I sometimes paid in change, oh I definitely sometimes paid in change), and you could have an entire section to yourself. Sure, you'd have to hike up 40,000 feet to get there, going up and up and around and around the ramps, so many ramps, like 47 ramps, dragging your feet like a vagabond in the desert, leaning forward with your head over your toes like a Norwegian ski jumper, pausing to turn around and see if your buddies were following behind you, seeing them slumped over the railing, barfing, ohhhh the barfing, the uncontrollable barfing, while you shouted down to them to do whatever you could to motivate them to keep moving forward.
“Only 3,000 more ramps to go, Tony!”
“But there’s so much barf! SO MUCH BARF.”
But Tony would persevere. Glassy-eyed and dazed. Spit dangling from his chin. Armpits a total mess. Just an absolute mess. Let’s face it, the guy was embarrassing. Just an embarrassing, disgusting little man. But he was determined to make it up to his seat. To claim his little five dollar slice of heaven.
And oh what a seat it was!
Take your pick. You literally had the entire upper bowl to choose from. It was like Lewis and Clark discovering North Dakota. Did Lewis and Clark even discover North Dakota? Who cares! Bismarck can suck a butt. And Sacagawea was so hot!
You could sit in row 8, while your buddy sat in row 11, and your other buddy sat in the next section over in row THIRTY SEVEN. Not because it made sense, but because you COULD. Spreading out with your arms over the chairs next to you, your feet up on the seats in front of you, your shirt off, tied around your head, nipples locked and loaded at two and ten. Could you see the game? Noooooooo. Of course not. Maybe you could make out Von Hayes in centerfield. And his sloppy, stupid haircut. But that might’ve been Bob Dernier. You certainly couldn’t see the Phanavision, that’s for sure. But the space. Ohhhhhh, the space. My wife wonders why when we go to the movies these days I insist on sitting three seats away from her. It’s because I fart like a Doberman. And I was raised at the Vet. Pissing into a Gatorade bottle. That I snuck in under my shirt. Filled with the cheapest whiskey a young man could drink.
I mean, obviously there were negatives about The 700 Level too. Like I said, you couldn’t see the goddamn game. At all. I mean, I guess you could, but you certainly couldn’t tell balls from strikes. Not that that matters in Philadelphia. And that’s not what it was all about anyway. It was about the whiskey. And the warm summer nights, with your shoes off, starving, absolutely starving, because there was no way the hot dog guy would be trekking up those #ramps. And concession stands? Stop it. Every single one of ‘em was closed. The only open concession stand I ever saw up there was because a guy threw a brick through it.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Citizens Bank Park. It’s fine. It’s nice. Those cup holders are pretty cool. And I like those onion crankers that spit out fresh chopped onions right onto your dog. But it’s so damn TIGHT in there. You’re crammed into your seat next to 38,000 idiots, shoulder to shoulder, knees jammed up to your chest like you're having a waterbirth, in danger of getting blasted by a foul ball at any moment, and unable to spark that bubonic chronic without a seven-year-old staring you down like Nancy Reagan.
I miss the Vet so much. I miss the stench. I miss the slop. I miss the catholic girls circling the inner loop with their oversized flannel shirts tied around their undersized waists. I miss not having to pay $35 to see a shi**y baseball team piss all over themselves. And I just looked at the Phillies website, and apparently you can get a ticket these days for 17 bones, which is not horrible, it’s really not, but it’s just not the same. These days, you can’t roll down with six of your buddies the night of the game and escape to The 700 Level oasis. You can’t get a group of people to take over a section like the Wolf Pack did. Or Person’s People (Robert Person!). Or The Daal’s house (Omar Daal!!!!). You can’t fall asleep with your pants around your ankles and not end up on YouTube 20 minutes later. Catholic girls are seriously amazing.
So I’m sorry, fine people of Citizen’s Bank, but I will not be visiting your park this summer. I prefer to spend my nights on the couch, reminiscing about the past, with some piping hot french bread pizza in my belly, and the skin ripped off the roof of my mouth, and whatever program my wife wants to watch on the television.
Because I am a slave to her. And my youth is gone.
Someone please bash me in the face with a toaster.