Page 8


6i ,r .–27. ‘ay a c 4,”.,34 . fAL44r36P’74’… .V-77 1-F, AW’. a 10C ; ir 3.3. ..73r.ta -3 .2 SW “”,. WO. 14-7′ 7:4 rki. -‘M5! os;;:aihr , . 3,3. F`,,.1 ; rig ” vol . 7.:000000001181″111112r Houston Sports Assn. `Had I Been a Salmon, I Would Have Lacked the Strength crack of the bat. That was eerie enough, but the cause of my first discomfort was something more basic: the amount of physical space in the Dome is very great, but the psychological space is disproportionately small. The posh levels of the stadium are about as psychologically roomy as a sardine can. As the tour wound slowly downward this appeared to bother several people besides myself, and we kept wandering out into the seats and looking up at the roof to gain relief. The dome itself is a clean, impressive piece of engineering, and does much to alleviate the sense of suffocation that can come on one in the clubs and restaurants. A week before my visit Ringling Bros. circus came to the Astrodome and played to full but rather disappointed houses. From the vantage point of the Upper Stands I could easily understand the disappointment: it would be curious to watch a circus and have the aerialists a hundred feet below one. Patrons, circus people, and even the animals missed the comparative intimacy of the Big Top; the tigers were nervous, and since the circus had only been allowed to use the infield, patrons in deep left or deep right field had a hard time seeing anything. It was necessary to keep the circus in the infield, we were told, because of the rapidly-failing outfield grass. The Dome had to be painted over, so outfielders could see the ball in the daytime, and when the sunlight was reduced the grass developed a tendency to die whenever stepped on. It was fed truck-loads of nutrients, and patches of it been painted bright green, but there were still vast stretches in deep right and center fields that looked as arid as the range along the Pecos. A circus procession would undoubtedly have reduced it to green-tinted dirt. Later, during the game, I watched closely to see if, the players seemed in any way discomfited by the Dome, and they didn’t. Except on very bright days, it would ap pear to be an excellent place to play ball. I did feel though that while the Dome may be great for baseball, baseball is a little too slow for the Dome. Pro football may prove to be the ideal Domesport. Soccer would also do nicely. The Dome would very likely dwarf any two-man affair, like a heavy-weight fight; the more people in action, the better context the Dome provides. Among the social sports, a political convention would probably come across best, and next to that, I would think the Beatles. For the latter they could drape a Texas-size Beatle wig over the bald white dome. The thought of a, Dome-ful of writhing teenagers stunned my imagination, and I allowed myself to drift mindlessly downward with the tour. About half-way down, snapping out of it, I noticed one shrewd touch: the press accommodations were very handy to the bar. W HEN I HAD SEEN the Countdown Cafeteria, the Skyblazer Restaurant, and the Astrodome Club I quit the tour and drifted down five or six ramps to the Domeskellar, where I refreshed myself with a poor boy sandwich. The Domeskellar turned out to be quite the pleasantest place in the whole ballpark. For one thing it was empty, and it stayed that way throughout the game. The management so clearly regarded it as a plebeian eatery that they hadn’t fixed it up much, whereas the other places are so thoroughly fixed up they leave one gasping for breath. In the Domeskellar you can buy a good sandwich and a beer and sit at one of the long cool tables and watch the game. Between innings you can even chat with the outfielders through the protective screen. It is the only good place for kids in the whole stadium. \(On a later occasion my three-year-old son got a great kick out of sitting in the Domeskellar and watching the players play “Astro,” but the “spaceball game” he watched from the Upper to Spa wn’ awhile and concluded that there are three reasons why so few people come to the Domeskellar. For one thing, it’s a long walk down, and for another, it is a lowerclass eatery. Everyone who comes to the, Astrodome considers that they have escaped the lower class. The most powerful deterrent, however, has to do with the scoreboard. You can, see the game fine from the Domeskellar, but you can’t see the scoreboard. If someone hit a home run while you were down there you would miss the moment of supreme electronic ecstacy, for which everyone waits. There you would be, stuck with a poor boy sandwich, while 35,000 people with no better tickets than yours were practically experiencing orgasm. If you eat in the Astrodome Club you can at least see the scoreboard on closed circuit television. I must admit, though, that getting out of the Domeskellar can be a problem. After my first trip I had literally to go up the down staircase. The ramps had been mysteriously locked, and the escalator was running downward and ‘would not reverse itself until six p.m. I started confidently up, but made so little headway that I let myself be carried back down. I wanted to reappraise the situation. An elderly attendant in an orange uniform came over to help me. “Them’s about a third faster than ordinary escalators,” he said cheerfully. “Gotta move these crowds fast.” On the second try I made it up, but I felt that, had I been a salmon, I probably would have lacked the strength to spawn. MY TICKET ENTITLED ME to -a red seat, the best that commoners can aspire to. I whiled away the hour till game time by perusing a fascinating compendium called Inside the Astrodome, a book I would love to review. It contained a letter from the President, another from the governor, a quote from Coleridge \(guess trodome and the Roman Colosseum, and page after page of Staggering Statistics on the Dome. The stadium’s ice plant can produce 18 tons of ice a day, for exampleno one in this climate can fail to be impressed with such a figure. The handbook also has a list of the 53 fabulous, individually styled skyboxes. “River Shannon,” for example, and “Ramayana.” My favorite was “Panjim Emerald” I was a litle disappointed that no one had thought of “Lingam Yoni.” After the game got under way I counted the boxes that were occupied, and only 20 of the 53 were. The man sitting next to me, a hearty; bearish fellow, was better versed in Astrolore than I was: when he saw me counting the occupied boxes he leaned over and clued me in. According to him, most of the people who owned the skyboxes were inside, disporting themselves on their astrocouches and watching the game on October 1, 1965 3