Monday, September 22, 2008

Stadium Rock

Given that I often refer to baseball as “the sport with the little white ball,” I don’t have any business writing a eulogy for Yankee stadium. I’ve only been to The House That Ruth Built a handful of times over the years and, in all honestly,I probably have a closer connection with the kosher hotdog vender than any particular player. In fact, if I had to pick a New York sports team to root for I’d go with the Mets since they've always felt like the long suffering Jeff Tweedy to the Yankees’ Jay Farrar, which is to say the perennial underdog one hopes will eventually prevail.

However, my brother is a huge Yankees fan and I was lucky enough to go with him to the sixth game of the 1996 World’s Series, which I’m told is kind of a big deal (OK maybe I know a little more about baseball than this blog lets on).

I’ve always felt bad that I scored a ticket to that game given its historic connotations, kind of like a non-Phish fan probably felt attending the Clifford Ball, Big Cypress or Amy’s Farm. Like a band, a baseball team can only have so many “on” nights, so many life-changing moments, so it's a shame to waste one on someone rooting for the National Anthem.

Yet, that night will always stick out as the night I finally got baseball…or at least its appeal. I’ve always felt that watching sports is kind of like, as the saying goes, dancing to architecture, and I never really understood its narrative story. But that night I finally felt its power: the kinetic group energy, the stadium-size relief when we(?) finally won and, most importantly, the little light bulbs flickering throughout the crowd…inspiring young minds to follow their dreams, strive for greatness or, at the very least, call their parent’s brokers for better seats the next season.

In retrospect, that was also probably the night my then twelve-year-old brother became a lifelong Yankee fan…the type of fan who will always look to Game Six as a reference point for power of the collective group experience. I usually spend baseball games catching up on my beauty rest, but something was different about that night: We stood throughout that entire final inning, and I didn’t even feel my feet. I was excited, my brother was excited and, most off all, I was excited for my brother. We were witnessing history, and we were witnessing it together.

That’s always been the true magic of baseball for me, what happened in the audience, not in the field. It is one of the few sports the rich and the poor can enjoy side by side---or at least in the same stadium---one of the few things in life grandparents can enjoy with their grandchildren. A lot of that has to do with the stadium, the original clubhouse, the original cub.

I’ve mourned Wetlands, I’ve mourned CBGB and I would have mourned the Fillmore East if I was old enough to remember it. That's why I mourn Yankee stadium and that's why I love what Bob Lefsetz wrote in his music industry letter this week:

Baseball parks don't change, they're not subject to fashion, you build them and they remain, frozen in time, a modern team playing in a bygone era.

Baseball teams are actually more like orchestras than rock bands, which is why they survive through the generations. Players come and go, rise through the ranks and eventually fade into the ether, making room for the next promising rookie. But the fans stay the same, watching a team as it goes through its inventible highs and its lows. I remember the Yankees' lean years in the 1980s, how they came from behind and finally won the Word Series in 1996. They continued to win, and I’ll always remember them as the team of my teenage years, even if they were never “my team” so to speak.

That’s why I’m sad that, like Seinfeld, the Clintons and so many heroes of the 1990s---the first decade I witnessed from start to finish---they eventually outlasted their time and lost that inspirational spark.

My brother tells me that the Yankees’ performances this year have been “pathetic,” which is a sad end for one of America’s most important cultural landmarks. But the fans will eventually forget this awful season---one day when the new stadium is built and a new team has come into its own.

Lefsetz was wrong about one thing: Baseball parks don’t remain frozen in time; only their bricks and mortar remain in a bygone era.

I asked my brother if he thought they’d keep the old stadium intact as a memorial, to house the memories in a safe location, and he told me that they were going to turn it into a park, which seems like the appropriate next step in that “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”-kind of way. And one day when I’m forced to bring my kids to see the Yankees play the Braves, I can tell them I saw that same game in a different stadium, when they players on the field were still just faces in the crowd.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

-Pete Seeger, 1961

1 comment:

PicturesqueMusiq said...

I got the chance to go to Turner Field on clients funds and downed a few beverages, got a bobble head, and destroyed a pack of peanuts. without a doubt, a great experience even though the braves are not the braves of the mid to late 90’s. cheers to them and here are a couple pictures I took.
http://womenartmoney.blogspot.com/2008/09/hello-mr-turner-how-i-do-like-your.html