Last night, Gelf Magazine hosted its monthly Varsity Letters reading series. With Will Leitch’s reading from his new book and Dan Shanoff and David Zirin on the roster, I ventured down to Happy Endings in Chinatown for the readings.
Good times were had, but that’s besides the point. The point is that Will Leitch does not like Yankee Stadium, and I have to wonder if, despite the history of the stadium, he’s tapped into something about the whole experience that speaks to everyone. In the new book, one of the chapters is a running diary surrounding a trip up to Yankee Stadium. It’s a narrative familiar to many.
In a nutshell: Ride the overstuffed subways up to Yankee Stadium after buying tickets at way above face value; find a sketchy place to check your bag for too much money; spend 20 minutes waiting in a pointless security line; shell out the most money at any MLB ballpark for food and beer; get inundated with loud between-innings promos; get serenaded yet again with “God Bless America”; hear Cotton-Eyed Joe for the one billionth time; inch down the ramps after the game; retrieve your checked bag; get home.
As Leitch puts it, that doesn’t sound like fun. From the money to the crowds to the incessant noise emanating from the scoreboard, Leitch doesn’t understand why Yankee fans are so attached to the House that Ruth Built. And I’m not even mentioning his critique of our inexplicable love for Paul O’Neill because, hey, that’s just a New York thing. My answer to that question: We love Paul O’Neill because he’s Paul O’Neill. You just had to be there.
But on a lot of the other points, I found myself laughing in agreement with Leicht. I know you’re shocked; me, the most outspoken blogger on the new stadium thinking bad thoughts about Yankee Stadium.
Well, in my opinion, going to Yankee Stadium has become something of a burden when you break it down like that because the Yankees have not tried to make the stadium more welcome and because of an odd sense of short-term tradition that no one really likes. How many people fly into a murderous rage whenever the grounds crew come out to the YMCA? How many people dread hearing John Sterling scream “Theeeee Yankees win” at the end of the game? We came to the game to escape John Sterling! And really, does anyone like Cotton Eyed Joe or the other music clips thrown at us at maximum value?
Inside the stadium, the Yankees haven’t made the concession stands easy to negotiate. Serpentining lines could have solved this problem years ago. Admittedly, “God Bless America” is a sensitive subject and one I’d rather not get into here, but the security lines outside have gotten ridiculous. Sometimes, the guards check cellphones; sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes, they check cameras; sometimes, they don’t. It’s very easy to fold up a backup and take it into the stadium in a clear plastic bag, and it’s incredibly easy to take a camera in without anyone noticing. Considering that the Yankees seem more concerned with opaque plastic bags rather than true security measures, can we really just ditch the charade already?
At the end of his segment, Leitch said he won’t miss Yankee Stadium when it’s gone, and that’s where he and I differ. To me, Yankee Stadium is where I grew up. Some of my earliest memories are night games in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Yankees just weren’t that good and the team drew about 26,000 to night games. I remember ditching high school to get to the 1 p.m. mid-week day games and just buying Tier Reserve tickets at the game for $14, the cost of a 2008 bleacher ticket. I remember watching Game 6 of the 2000 ALCS from the Upper Deck, and I remember the crowd’s energy during Game 3 of the 2001 World Series.
After this year, nothing will be left but memories. I can forgive the high prices and obnoxious music because it’s still Yankee Stadium. What I learned from Leitch is that fans of other teams just don’t get it. Maybe that’s why I find Fenway Park to be an insufferably small stadium with poor sight lines, no leg room and rather disgusting facilities. It’s all about your team’s memories, and that’s what fills up Yankee Stadium every night.