Tuesday, September 23, 2008

(Once More) Unto the Breach

Ok, so I'll grant that Yankee Stadium at least deserves another blog post before its demolished, especially considering that two dyed-in-the-wool Sox fans have spoken eloquently in its defense.

Here's an excerpt of what my friend Maggie wrote:

"am i the only person who is angry and dumbfounded with the closing of yankee stadium? WHY ARE THEY CLOSING THEIR DOORS???? last night i felt a lump in my throat watching the festivities, listening to yogi and whitey ford, watching the clips -- even seeing bernie williams made me teary. that is sacred ground, and the yankees should play there forever. no one should have wanted to close its doors, but since some people are truly evil and actually wanted to for eventual financial gain, they shouldn't have had the chance -- it should be a historical site, protected by the national government.

when i am forced to have a conversation with a yankee fan, the way i get beyond my knee jerk distaste for them is by talking about not what makes us different (NYY vs BOS) but what makes us the same. what on earth could that be, you ask? our LOVE OF BASEBALL. and one of the most beautiful parts of baseball is its long and rich history...a history packed full of memories and moments that have been passed down for more than a century.

i hate the yankees more than anyone, and yet i am so so so sad they are leaving such a precious place. there aren't that many physical locations in the world where so much history has taken place...

and why didn't yankee fans protest this like they would in boston if they tried to tear down fenway park? didn't they all freak out when they renovated it in the '70s? you'd think this would bring even more criticism. us new yorkers are paying $70M of our tax dollars for this project. i feel so dirty to be involved.

i just think this is a crime. last night felt like a televised execution to me.

on the plus side, how cool would it be if the yankees never won another world series again after the move? long live The Curse Of The New Stadium!"

And my friend Marc wrote (in comments to yesterday's post)

"I have to say...it's a real shame for the place to go. Damn the infinite Sinatra loop, but that's a Yankee fan thing, not a Yankee Stadium thing. Same for the beer tosses; same for the asshole fans. You'll see: all that crap will follow the team across the street, but the stadium and its history will not. The history, the ghosts, the center of baseball's true capitol...that stuff is that stadium; it is in itself the closest connection to its past. Without all of that mystique, there would be no significance to that place; and if you can appreciate what has transpired there, the great well of baseball drama and lore that has sprung from that field, then you should mourn its demise at least somewhat. It's a symbol of baseball's great past, the site of the great blossoming in baseball's history, and it's an American landmark. That stadium served to represent so much about The Game, and that city, and none of it will be quite the same without it."

And that's two Sox fans.

Which makes Maggie's question- "why didn't yankee fans protest this like they would in boston if they tried to tear down fenway park?"- all the more salient.

Exactly. These are yankees fans we're talking about. i just googled 'save yankee stadium', and there's very little evidence of any public support. remember all those 'save fenway park' bumper stickers in the early'00s, and the public outcry? i've never noticed anything at all like that here. i don't remember anyone here saying the yankees shouldn't move. i've never seen one t shirt or bumper sticker or anything that indicates there's any public sentiment against moving.

this is entirely fitting with the yankees character; they know that they'll make more money in a new stadium, so the fans are in favor of it- that's what they care about. For the Yankees, 'meaning' is just 'money' spelled wrong.

Now, whether the park itself should be protected as a landmark, as Maggie suggests, upon the team moving out is a distinct question from whether the team should move out at all. Apparently, the building itself doesn't get protected landmark status due to the consensus that the renovations in the 70's so dramatically altered the recognizable features that it's virtually not the same park anymore. City agencies aren't even giving the issue a public hearing; if the public was clamoring that this was outrageous, I'm sure they would.

But this prompts the question as to what extent the stadium is 'owned' by the public, specifically Yankees fans, such that the fate of the park should be determined by such dubious entities as public sentiment or rancor, or whether the right thing to do would have to be independently discerned and executed independently of their desires. Perhaps Yankees fans, in their insatiable quest for escalating payrolls and third place finishes, are happy to molt their old stadium as befitting the snakes they are. (zing.) Or perhaps they should be saved from themselves; Marc is certainly right that they'll take their jerkiness with them to the new stadium, and aren't likely to change of their own accord. Perhaps History belongs not just to Yankee fans but to everyone, in which case the Yankees are being particularly selfish in hording it for themselves. Perhaps its not 'their' park at all. Why should they be exclusively proprietary over history? Why shouldn't Sox fans get to complain; it's our history, too, even it's lousy history.

The points about a common baseball history are well taken; even Joe Dimaggio counts as 'our' history, as Baseball, aka The Game, is a higher unity that transcends even sox/yankees division. And so the provincial history of the Bronx borough is lower in the hierarchy of Forms than is History, which in turn must defer to Baseball, aka The Game, as the ultimate in meaningful ideals which subsumes them all. And it would be just like the Yankees to think they're bigger than The Game, and to abandon History for the sake of a $250 million payroll and a 4th place finish (as naturally payroll and standings are inversely related, I induce.) So I can admit to feeling the twinge in the demolishing of even the hated Yankee Stadium, insofar as it is subsumed by its place in the Game, and I can even happily continue to hate the Yankees for thinking its theirs to destroy, and for Yankees fans for failing to stick up for the larger issues at stake, and place party, or team, over country, or sport.

On the other hand, its just so in character; the evil empire needs a new Death Star. How can we take that away from them? They wouldn't 'be' the Yankees if they couldn't do whatever they possibly could to be as corporate and tramply as possible.

Imagine: It would be funny if they were penalized for their success; suppose that because so much history took place there, they became prohibited from ever moving out, and in another 100 years when every other stadium figures out how to compress seats like microchips and have 1 million capacity stadiums, and the yankees have a fraction of that and become the lowest payroll team as they'd still be restricted to a 20th century analog stadium, and then they'd become the scrappy low payroll underdogs who'd we be forced to cheer for because of their pluck and gritty hard nosed play...

What a strange future that'd be. Maybe this is for the best.


Eric said...

A thought-provoking post...so thought-provoking, in fact, that what started out as a comment here developed into a full-blown post. Thanks for the inspiration!

Soxlosophy said...

thanks for being provoked!