Seat me in the lower level

Maybe I'm just showing my age, but I remember when cable TV meant having access to 13 channels.

Not much, but it was more than three times the number of stations we had before. It's also the reason I'm an Atlanta Braves fan.

Back in those 13-channel days my newspaper work as one of the sports guys was completed shortly after midnight. I soon discovered that during baseball season one of the local network affiliates signed off at 1 a.m., and Ted Turner's brainchild, WTBS - one of the first "super stations" - filled its spot. And at that time of the morning, Ted figured there was nothing better to put on WTBS (now it's plain old TBS) than replays of the latest game by the team he owned, the Braves.

Back then, the Braves were truly horrible, regularly losing 90 to 105 games a year. But they were the only game in town at that hour, and even though I already knew the final score, I just had to watch.

TBS was always there as the years rolled by, the jobs changed and cable expanded, so Braves games were shown live. The Braves turned into contenders and my son grew up as a fan of the team as we shared couch time in front of the tube.

And that's how we both ended up in Phoenix a couple of weekends ago. The Braves were in town for their annual series against the Diamondbacks, and the trip was a belated birthday present from me to my son.

But this column is about the stadium.

It's different, or maybe it's the norm these days. I've been to a few ballparks, but I'd never encountered one where the interior walkways were more reminiscent of an office building. The floors were carpeted, and there were suites on one side for the big-spending fans and actual places of business on the other. Hey, if it helps pay the bills ...

And there were helpful people everywhere, looking at your ticket and letting you know where to go to find your seat.

Along with being helpful, I'm sure they were also making sure you didn't have a ticket in the nosebleed section and you were trying to upgrade on the cheap.

I was thinking on my first trip to the seats that it was a lot like my elementary school, except the hall monitors didn't care if you talked.

Midway through the game, I changed my mind after walking for what seemed forever on creaky knees to find the men's room. My elementary school had more restrooms, and they were bigger, too. The line to these tiny restrooms extended to the hall.

Getting a beer and a dog was also a long, expensive walk. Two of each came to $26, which I suppose is the average these days. And getting a beer after the sixth inning was almost impossible on that level of the stadium. Given the lack of available urinals in the vicinity, that's probably not a bad thing.

Then there's the name of the place. It used to be Bank One Ballpark, but everyone referred to it as "BOB." That's a cool, casual nickname, one that I think is perfect for Major League Baseball.

But business agreements do expire, and BOB is now Chase Field, which I think would be the perfect name for a perpetually amorous gynecologist on "General Hospital."

In other words, I wasn't impressed by the whole stadium experience.

That all changed the next day, though, when we came back for our last game, and all it took was the opportunity to explore on a lower level.

That's where I found the big concession stands, other vendors and large restrooms one actually associates with a ballpark and not a business park. You could smell the popcorn and actually look out on a large portion of the outfield - and the hall monitors didn't care.

That was the baseball atmosphere the higher level of the stadium was missing.

Or maybe I'm just showing my age.