MY VIEW • While Portland wastes time, its northern neighbor revels in pro sports
As it turns out, July 15 was an amazing day at the ballpark. The sky was a deep blue, the sun shone brightly and the stars were everywhere - baseball stars. Hometown fans celebrated, and for the first time in a long time, it seemed that baseball really mattered.
If you think I'm referencing the Triple-A All-star game, you're wrong. Rather, I'm speaking of a grander celebration in Seattle - exactly 10 years ago. It was July 15, 1999, when Safeco Field opened to a Kingdome-weary fan base. By sheer luck I stumbled upon a ticket, walked through the turnstiles and said to myself, 'Let the sunshine in.'
If you think this has nothing to do with Portland, you're wrong again. Simply put, Seattle knows a 'modernistic masterpiece' when it envisions one. That city also has the civic foresight and political moxie to turn the vision into reality.
Portland has neither of these things.
Seattle thinks big while Portland frets and fritters away precious time. Seattle offers a brand new ball park, football stadium and theater/concert hall. Portland owns an abandoned rectangle, likely to end up a velodrome for bicyclists. (How ironic; local bike riders going around in circles - just like our politicians.)
In light of Safeco Field's 10-year anniversary, one thing is clear: Seattle knows how to party like it's 1999. Portland doesn't even know what time it is: crunch time, for local sports fans.
At this point I would settle for MLS soccer and minor league baseball on the banks of the Willamette River. What locals should never settle for, however, is political incompetence - worse yet, indifference. I'm not asking for moral perfection from our leaders, but I would appreciate a little intestinal fortitude from City Hall.
Local naysayers will again hoot and howl as is their custom. They'll remind us that we've got better things to do, more important priorities, and a better understanding of how money should be spent: like changing street names, as opposed to fixing potholes.
Of course, we will be reminded that major league franchises do nothing for the local economy. I'm curious: What exactly is the unemployment rate in Seattle, San Francisco and Denver as compared to Portland?
In the final analysis, people move to, live in and invest in their communities based on various livability factors. Major league sports franchises are one of those factors. For every 'art saves lives' bumper sticker, there is a 'baseball is life' T-shirt.
Local art fans benefit from a restored Schnitzer theater and a relatively new Performing Arts Center. Sports fans are only asking for a piece of the pie. If Major League Baseball is not in our immediate future, we should at least offer up a minor league gem of a park.
So humor us, if you will. Let us have our plebeian pleasantries: a cold beer, a warm chili-dog and natural grass as opposed to artificial turf. Imagine that: Even baseball fans believe it best to be 'green.'
Jim Murphy is a long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirates fan. He lives in Cedar Mill.