BLISS ON THE BLUFF
There are very few places Id rather be than the leftfield bluff at AutoZone Park. Ive come to the conclusion that this mound of dirt -- dressed so elegantly in the kind of grass best appreciated barefoot -- is the single greatest idea in the history of Memphis sports. I grew up with the almost Biblical belief that the best vantage point for a baseball game is directly behind the third-base dugout. You can have that seat. Give me a blanket, some sunshine, and a family member or two . . . and Ill make the Bluff my home.
The Bluff (it deserves to be capitalized) is the perfect amenity for the perfect ballpark. To begin with, its a tangible metaphor for our city. If you cant watch baseball from a bluff in Memphis, then where? Gazing from atop the Bluff -- which is elevated above an already oversized leftfield wall -- one gains the kind of vista that makes baseball and poetry such a familiar tandem. You can see the entire grandstand, the confines of both dugouts, the roof of The Peabody, even the cranes bringing the FedExForum to life beyond Beale Street to the south. And, of course, you see that blanket of grass -- and delightful diamond of dirt -- where men remain boys.
Anyone who has ever survived three hours on a metallic, backless bleacher seat will attest to the immeasurable comfort the Bluff provides. Drop that blanket where you please and stretch your every limb till you find a body harmony rarely enjoyed in public. Sit Indian style. Recline. Stand up for an inning or two (those behind you can shift accordingly). Heck, lay down, roll over on your belly, and nap through the seventh inning stretch. Try this at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and youll wake up behind bars.
If the view and the wide-open space arent enough to land you on the Bluff, theres always the flying cowhide. If catching your first foul ball might be compared with falling in love for the first time, then catching a home run ball is very near, well, realizing loves more intimate charms. And yes, home runs are hit on the Bluff (more so in some seasons than others . . . keep the faith). During the Redbirds 2000 championship season, a well-timed dive allowed me to beat a pair of grade-schoolers to my first home run ball. Alas, it was hit by a Tucson Sidewinder, so I proceeded to sling the offending spheroid back from whence it came. Anyone going home with a ball that aided the opposing nine will not be welcome in our prestigious Bluff Club.
Its the children, of course, who make the Bluff a sloped urban oasis. I thought I knew how to have fun at the ballpark until I saw my daughter -- then three -- perform her first downhill somersault as the Redbirds took the field. I thought I knew baseball joy until I saw this little blonde chase down Rockey the Redbird -- a Bluff regular, by the way -- for a mid-game hug and handshake. I thought I knew spectator pride until I saw my younger daughter -- only eight months old! -- celebrated on the stadium scoreboard as the Redbirds Fan of the Game . . . broadcast live from the leftfield bluff.
Box seats have their virtues. Luxury suites are . . . luxurious. But you know what? The world would be a better place if we found more opportunities to put grass under our fannies. To recline instead of sit, to stretch our bodies instead of fold them. And to do all this at a baseball game? Bliss.
How much to join my club of Bluff Brothers (and Sisters)? Less than a movie ticket. Less than an order of barbecue nachos in the very same park! No excuses not to visit. If you cant fall in love with the Bluff, please find help. The grass will never be greener.