Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

First impression of The Benz: It would be a great place for a real game


The view from the press box at the newly opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday:

Just realize that if I miss some layered nuance from a game – and football contains so many – now you’ll know why. Yeah, sure, that’s it.

2. Everything in the new place looked pretty complete except, oddly enough, the team that calls it home.

3. Matt Ryan’s first pass in The Benz was batted up and intercepted. He otherwise looked neither most nor valuable, with a quarterback rating of 8.1 in limited action. Guess it’s our turn to give him a pass.

His backup, Matt Schaub, suffered a strip sack his first play.

Sure hope these fellows – the first Matt, mostly –  adapt to throwing in their new park a little quicker than Julio Tehran did.

4. No, the Falcons don’t need to sign Colin Kaepernick.

5. Message to those who have made enough of the right choices in their lives to afford admission to The Benz: Hold onto your eclipse glasses. You may be able to look directly into the new halo board without damaging your eyes, but why risk it?

It is big and bright and capable of lighting up the building with the intensity of a thousand highway flares. Especially when highlighting a sponsor, which by appearances, comprises the entire Fortune 500, and then some.

There is a technological quandary facing every customer to these new wonder stadiums: Do I look up or look down to watch the game? Do I focus on the field for the true in-stadium experience or give in to the temptation of the big screen?

Despite the distractions that flood the senses, shouldn’t the field remain the canvas that holds the fans’ eye? Otherwise, you’re paying an awful lot for the same view you’d get at home on the big screen. And no one wands you on the way to the couch – unless you want them to.

Those who have been to Jerry’s World in Texas say it’s much easier to look away from the video and concentrate on the actual at The Benz. That’s a big plus.

6. At the start of the game, a couple random swatches of sun lit up small sections of the seats. A little goose from nature, a reminder that this would have been a splendid evening to put the top down. But, well, you know that story.

7. The most powerful statement yet about the absolute commercial worthlessness of the preseason were the number of red seats that remained unoccupied Saturday. A quarter of them – rough estimate – at the start of the game. Most of them through the better part of the second half.

If the chance to check out a mega stadium can’t overcome the pervasive indifference to the preseason, if curiosity and wonder aren’t enough cut through the knowledge that the game itself should be played on a vacant field before an audience of passers-by, then why bother with such a production at all?

This game, then, should not be considered the real opener. Saturday was a shake-down cruise. A dress rehearsal. Shadow boxing. The mike check doesn’t define the Springsteen show. And an NFL preseason game doesn’t deserve the rank of a special, seminal moment.

The real opener comes in six days, when Alabama and FSU give The Benz a proper shake-down, right to its steel viscera.


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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.