The Big Screen

Wednesday night I was at Turner Field to watch the hometown team play baseball.

It’s a great place to watch a game. Built in 1996, the home of the Braves is a nice blend of traditional styling and state-of-the-art features. One of those modern features is the Diamond Vision HD LED screen that is perched high above center field. Debuting in 2005, this monstrosity is 71 feet tall by 79 feet wide, weighs 50 tons, and contains 50 million LED lights. It’s said to be the largest outdoor screen in the world, even making an appearance in the Guiness Book of World Records.

Kinda makes that 80-inch flat-panel TV in your Man Cave look more like a razor blade. And it makes my 36-inch tube TV look like a, well, like a depressing reminder of my lack of an 80-inch flat-panel TV.

In a culture whose obsession with television is borderline worship, a 5,600 square foot TV is like the entertainment equivalent of Hagia Sophia.

So, obviously, the Big Screen is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Turner Field experience. Let’s be honest, baseball can be a slow-moving, low-scoring event. You need some extracurricular entertainment at times to help bridge the gap between exciting moments. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) The Wave, as viable in-game fun, is on life support. Sure, a Wave still develops every game. But, for the most part, nobody’s heart is in it anymore. People don’t stand up. They just hold their hands up in the air as the wave rolls by and yell, “whooooo, ooooohh…whatever.” Or maybe that’s just me.

The only other in-game entertainment that generates as much excitement as the Big Screen is the Home Depot Tool Race. This segment used to be an animated feature on the screen, but now it’s a group of four real people dressed in tool costumes racing around half of the warning track in the outfield. It’s mildly amusing. Unless you’re a fan of the drill. He never wins. He’s clumsy and goofy and always falls down, taking one of the other runners with him. What a tool.

Outside of that minor diversion, the Big Screen is the center of attention between innings. And people will do almost anything to get on it. Seriously, almost anything. Painting the body, dancing, screaming, waving, jumping, slipping the cameraman twenty bucks. Or maybe that’s just me (who am I kidding? I spent that twenty bucks on a large Diet Coke.)

And then there are the usual segments that are a part of every game. Here are the best features…

  • The Dance Party. You watch this with the same mentality that you watch the auditions of American Idol. You’re not really tuning in for the talented ones. Watching people who can really dance is nice. Watching little kids boogie is amusing. But the jackpot is people who can’t dance. They fall into two categories: people who have had too much to drink and so they think they can dance. And people who haven’t had anything to drink at all, but still think they can dance. The former is hilarious. The latter is hilarious and a little sad. But, hey, you know what they say. In life there are people who dance, people who don’t dance, and people who dance on an enormous outdoor TV.
  • Kiss Cam. There are several different variations of this classic. Cute Couple Kiss Cam (awwwww). We’re Family And That’s Just Awkward Kiss Cam (move along, cameraman, move along). Stuck In The Friend Zone And Never Going To Get A Kiss Cam (usually the cameraman returns to this duo a few times in an effort to wear down the girl’s defenses). PG-13 Make Out Kiss Cam (get a room). Senior Citizen Couple Who Hasn’t Kissed In At Least 3 Years Kiss Cam (the older gentleman is usually quite grateful for the opportunity).
  • The Cap Shuffle Game. 3 caps. 1 of them has a picture hiding in it. Follow with your eyes and try to keep them on the cap that has the picture underneath it. Fairly simple concept. But it becomes a fascinating lesson in human psychology. Every person in that stadium follows the cap that the picture is under. And after all of the┬ámaneuvering, twisting, turning, and zig-zagging, we’re almost always sure that we know exactly which hat is the correct one. On Wednesday night, I purposefully didn’t watch the screen. I wanted to see if there was a majority opinion on the correct cap, and if that majority opinion turned out to be right. At the end of the scramble, everyone in the whole stadium seemed to be shouting the same number. TWO!!!!! TWO!!!! TWO!!!! People were making the peace sign all over the park. Even the official contestant guessed Cap 2. It had to be 2, right? No way the whole crowd could be wrong. It’s a gargantuan screen! It was 1. The contestant, and the whole crowd, was stunned. I was reminded that we tend to be people who believe what we see. And if we see it on TV, well, then it has to be true.

Maybe we should dance more and worry about what people think less. Maybe we should be more affectionate with our loved ones and less guarded. Maybe seeing isn’t always believing. And maybe TV isn’t the best place to find truth.

Even if it’s a TV the size of Texas.

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