Dodger Stadium might be better referred to as the crumbling house of McCourt these days, an iconic facility buckling under the weight of ownership mismanagement and fan indifference about a losing team and off-the-field crises.
On most evenings, the 49-year-old home of the Dodgers is no longer the Blue Heaven that Tommy Lasorda loves to call it, a sacred L.A. institution where fathers and sons and grandsons fostered multi-generational love affairs with their favorite team.
But magic can still be found in Chavez Ravine. Dodger Stadium is at its best these days when the team that bears its name is either not in town or has not yet shown up for work.
For decades, a handful of in-the-know locals have used the upper deck of the stadium as a lunch retreat, a peaceful haven in which to meet friends and rejuvenate with the pastoral green field below and the San Gabriel Mountains above. So often associated with loud and raucous ballgames, Dodger Stadium is a monastery at noon.
Although the Dodgers do not publicize the access for picnickers, they are believed to be the only major league team that allows patrons to enter the stadium on any day there is not an afternoon game, and settle down in the bleacher seats for a snack or something more substantial.
It is incredibly simple: The lunch folks drive through the main gates at Elysian Park, tell the guard they are headed to the gift shop on the upper deck, then just walk on through and take their seats. ThePostGame had heard rumors of the informal arrangement, something which the club offers as a goodwill gesture to its followers and turns a blind eye to, but wanted to see for ourselves.
A couple of sandwiches from the legendary French-dip pit stop of Philippe's on Alameda were perfect fuel and at 2 p.m. on a recent weekday the urban myth was indeed as promised. It is an oasis of calm amid the most hectic of cities, and for some Dodgers fans, a reminder of what they love about the team and its home.
"I come here to get away from it all," says fan Chantal Kang, who brought a friend, takeout from nearby Chinatown, and had an entire section to themselves. "It is a sweet place to be, and if you love baseball there is no better place to eat lunch.
"It is a pretty cool thing that the Dodgers allow us to do this because let's face it, there hasn't been much else to get excited about this season."
Indeed, perhaps for the first time in its history, Dodger Stadium on game night is not such a cool place to be. With owner Frank McCourt seemingly in the final days of a turbulent reign, fans are staying away, loath to support the unpopular owner who squandered tens of millions of dollars on his family's extravagant lifestyle instead of improving the team.
Crowds at the most recent homestand were dismal, and while McCourt was able to make the May payroll after being unable to do so in April, his every move is scrutinized by Major League Baseball bean counters.
This season has conjured nothing but negativity. The ugliest scene came on opening day, when a San Francisco Giants fan was critically beaten, an attack for which there is still no conviction. Stadium regulars say the romance is gone, and bad went to worse last week when a fire broke out in a storage area during a game.
The team has struggled with a losing record, and despite claims of the players to the contrary, morale has surely been impacted by the off-field shenanigans.
"You just have to be professional and get on with it," first baseman James Loney says. "We spend a lot of time at the ballpark and you try to distance yourself from what is going on and do your job.
"But as players we accept the responsibility we have to the city and our fans and we want to turn the corner for them and give them reasons to be proud of being fans of the Dodgers."
The upper deck is a very different place in the ninth inning of a night game than it is at lunch. Crystal Kang remains on this night, surrounded by restless locals as the Dodgers creep toward another defeat. Boos begin to rain down as the men in blue are retired in order.
"Lunchtime was the best part of my day," she says. "Right now, it is the best the Dodgers have to offer."
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