Like a good perfume smells better on Penelope Cruz, championships, perhaps, are best celebrated at baseball’s cathedral.
They are now a 27 time World Champion. Whether you love them or hate them, you’re a capitalist or a socialist; the Yankees should be respected by every American because they are synonymous with winning and excellence.
By no means are the Yankees a model of perfection, however; but do you think you get to the top in America and stay there by shining everyone’s shoes without subsequently tying the laces together? Not only did they fire Joe Torre, but also proceeded to remind him on his way out that there was always a TV gig waiting for him on the franchise owned and operated YES Network. Now that’s the sound of the door hitting you on your way out. While I love Torre as much as the next guy, last I checked the future hall of fame manager is probably going to make a lot more money with the Dodgers than you or I would in 10 lifetimes. And don’t put too much stock into the “Evil Empire” propaganda. It was the Red Sox who decided Willie Mays wasn’t worth a tryout because it was raining and didn’t even hire a black man to play ball full time until after the Boston Bruins-a hockey team-did so. True Story.
In brief, here’s a taste from my vantage point on Wednesday evening, amongst a Bronx party like it was 1999…
7:00 pm: I’m walking to Grand Central Station via 42nd street with Bryant Park at my immediate right. In the park’s background was the sweetest sight my eyes laid on all day-at a projected 150 yards away, the automatic pilot thankfully malfunctions as I marvel at a blue and white-lit Empire State Building. For those of us living in this town whom are blessed to be green enough to, on occasion, appreciate the paragons, this was the definition of a stop and pinch yourself moment. The only thing missing in this backdrop was the Bat Signal itself.
7:15 pm: Waiting for the Bronx bound #4 train at Grand Central station. In the words of Carly Simon: Anticipation is making me wait. I’m excited for the opportunity to be a part of a cultural phenomenon.
7:35 pm: Circus clowns in a slug bug had nothing on this train car. You know how toothpicks sometimes come in a plastic cylinder shaped tube by the hundreds? You have to grab the tweezers from the medicine cabinet just to get the first toothpick out. That was my ride to Yankee Stadium. Only Raymond Babbitt could have come close to estimating just how many people were actually crammed into the car. I could only guess it was something comparable to a mid-town morning rush hour ride squared to the fifth power.
(And in this week’s installment of the popular “Irony is also a Funny Thing” segment: Leave it to the fattest guy on the sub car, who during one of the stops along the way, in typical New Yorker fashion quibbles, “It’s a nice view out there. Why don’t some of you get off and check it out.”)
8:00 pm: Fathers, sons and daughters are still lobbying for tickets for the sold out event. A recorded Mary J. Blidge could be heard singing the national anthem. The DirecTv blimp is seemingly a stone’s throw above us. A mile of media vans equipped with large satellite dishes line the streets. This was my second “pinch me” moment within an hour. Ron Burgundy would describe this event as, “kind of a big deal.”
8:30 pm: My party and I finally make our way to the big screen television section at “The Dugout” directly across the street from the ballpark.
It was the Animal House Toga Party all over again: only Yankee jerseys posed as the event garb, everyone was John Belushi, and a one man band that goes by the name of “Godzilla” performed heroically in place of Otis Day & The Knights. Hideki Matsui** slugged an early two-run “Shama-lama-ding-dong” over the right field fence off of Pedro Martinez, and the Bronx Bombers never looked back.
**Matsui is a free agent at the end of the season. Before Wednesday night, he was perhaps better known around baseball for his exceptionally abundant collection of pornography. Now that he can go into the off-season with a very friendly bidding tag of “World Series MVP,” that could leave a general manager no choice but to throw enough scrill in Godzilla’s way to actually buy Jenna Jameson herself.
8:45 pm: The best fandom chant that modern day sport has to offer is heard-in a synchronization nonetheless-when Yankee catcher Jorge (pronounced Hore-Hay) Posada steps to the plate. All together now (x20): HIP, HIP, HORE-HAY!
(To say New York sports fans are the most sophisticated in sports is a misconception. Every time a Yankee bat hit the ball, even when the ball flared out of play, the fans blew up in chorus likeable to the way Seattle fans at Safeco field do when Ken Griffey Jr. hits a home run. Maybe I’ll give them the “caught in the moment” pass this time around.)
Maybe this was the kind of primitive hoopla that would have had an evangelical like Ned Flanders think twice about the theory of evolution after all.
Either way, this was definitely a senior thesis goldmine for current sociology majors. (Picture below is case in point).
I didn’t go to the Bronx in search of the American Dream on Wednesday night. The quagmire itself just played out in front of me, while surrendering my psyche for the next three days trying to do my best to (re)define it. You could even say the whispering devil inhibited my left shoulder, and a hymning angel floated about my right side. The Devil said that this is good for the city, which is currently under the spell of an unemployment rate that is being oft mentioned in the same sentence as the Great Depression. Parties and parades will be had. Shirts, jerseys, DVD’s, Hats, newspapers and any and all Yankee paraphernalia will be consumed by all and make people happy again. Pleasure for all!
The angel said we are all God’s children. The black, the white, the brown, the privileged, the underprivileged, the whores, the virgins, the young, the old, the gay, the straight, the moderately smart, and the very, very stupid to come together for one common purpose: to cheer for someone else’s success (albeit vicariously) and to enjoy each other’s company in the process.
I had a few beers while hanging at the aforementioned bar/frat house, and I remember thinking, “I can’t even feel this. I am already intoxicated from spirits in the air.”
But that’s the big part of the Yankees essence that-in one true way-takes on the personality of New York City itself: It gives just enough power and opportunity to the little guy to make he/she feel important. Like you are part of something bigger.
The American Dream, unlike the on-field success of the New York Yankees, does not come and go. The American Dream, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not something you can hold in your hand, but every once in a while we experience grand events like these that remind us why this is still hope for America. Even as a self-admitted cynic of the average sport fan-or average American for that matter-what I saw on the streets surrounding Yankee Stadium was The American Dream (and it did have the feeling I assume I would have encountering a sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, or an entry level job offer at a major media outlet).
We flexed our freedom muscles that night. Even more, I saw thousands of people in the same vicinity, but saw nothing to scoff at. The Forefathers would be proud. Strangers were high-fiving each other. I heard at least, get this, five male New Yorkers say, “excuse me,” after bumping into someone else. I saw another two males acting chivalrous towards females. Hobos had dollar bills in their collection hats as opposed to corroded pennies. According to various local news reports the following morning, the only arrests that were made involved fans jumping on top of taxi cabs-and that may as well happen everyday.
This majestic night in the Bronx, using sports as its platform, showed us what sports can do that a relaxing Sunday at the Brooklyn Flea Market can’t: Sports in America still has the unmatched capability to connect all the dots that form society.
As long as we are capable of doing just that, then maybe the USA is not a dynasty that will ultimately crumble after all.
Because the only thing prettier than seeing LeBron James power his way to the basket en route to a powerful slam dunk, is seeing an abundance of civilians come together to form one giant smile.