You've gone to NBT Bank Stadium for a Chiefs game, settled into your seats, looked out over the green field, leaned back to enjoy the game and ...
Turned for that look behind home plate to the tower, the mysterious land, that place where you've never been.
The suites. The boxes. The Promised Land. Luxury is usually the word attached at the front. Big business in the world of sports. Teams that have old stadiums knock them down to build new ones to put these babies in. Teams that have had them for decades plot ways to maximize their effect.
Fans that have never been are left to make that turn and stare. Maybe grumble at the loss of prime viewing territory. Maybe feel the green monster of envy creep in for a short visit.
During the last home stand, my dear wife Karen was invited to attend a Friday night game vs. the Indianapolis Indians through her job in the advertising department at Syracuse Media Group. With her second ticket she invited me. I said yes.
The Chiefs' version of these exclusive environs are called Luxury Suites, it said on our ticket.
When we showed those tickets to the gentlemen at the parking lot entrance, he still asked us to hand over $5, but when we asked if we could, he waved us over to the specially designated Luxury Suite Parking Lot behind the left field side of the stadium.
When we handed the tickets over and walked up the big steps, instead of walking down from the concourse to the reserved seats or up to the general admission deck, we wound our way left to the elevator, tucked in a foyer where I briefly admired a wall reserved for the Syracuse Baseball Hall of Fame.
The SMG suite is 311. I knew who leased the box from the moment we stepped inside, and not just because I worked at the big daily for just shy of three decades in my past life. The decor featured front pages on the side wall and the familiar online logo on the back.
On the serving table was a pasta salad and a tray of cheese and crackers. A tray with a warmer hosted a pile of hot dogs and buns, with a little pile of sauerkraut in the middle. On the front counter in front of the viewing window were baskets of popcorn and chips with dip. The food had been ordered from Chiefs catering ahead of time by somebody at SMG, I found out by listening to conversation. The purpose of the evening was to host clients from a particular advertiser that did not intend to bring enough people to fill the box. (Hence, our invitation.) Somebody looked in the fridge and did not see the expected beer. A call was made to catering.
I grazed on the food, drank a beer, ate a hot dog.
A baseball lover with my Mets hat proudly on my head, I enjoyed the view nicely situated behind home plate. It was one of those weird spring nights where the temperate dipped to 44 degrees. Some innings I sat in the two rows of seating out front, chatting with fans from the box to my right, also Mets fans by some serendipity. Some innings I watched through the windows, sitting on the stools next to my dear wife Karen.
SMG host Marlene brought her marvelous son Josh to the game, and watching his delight was part of our fun.
At two different points, knocks on the suite door brought visits from costumed mascot Scooch and the Chiefs superhero. They both posed for photos with the astonished Josh. Great touch from the team.
Later, Chiefs GM Jason Smorol knocked and visited, saying hello and asking everybody how it was going. He remembered me from our talks last season, and told me that former Met Lenny Dykstra was in town to watch is son, Chiefs player Cutter, and that he'd mentioned to Lenny how he'd bring in a big Mets fan to reminisce with him the next time he came through Syracuse. Jason is very, very good at what he does.
The Chiefs lost 6-4. This has not been a great on-field follow-up to last season's break-out International League-leading regular season. Sigh. Maybe the second half will feature a rebound. The parent Nationals are having another good season, after all, and are interested in their Triple-A squad.
Every Friday is Fireworks Night -- tonight, too, after the 7:05 game vs. Yankees affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barres -- so we all moved outside under the stars to appreciate that impressive display.
I overheard how much the bill totaled for the food and beer, but because I was a guest, I'll just say that counting on my fingers, I do believe it was more than concession stand prices. That old saying that luxury does not come cheap is true. But it sure felt nice for a night.