Thursday, September 20, 2007

Call Me Marlowe...

…not because I secretly wrote the works of William Shakespeare, and not because I’m a hard boiled detective who has coffee and cigarettes for breakfast and whisky for lunch--while there might be some truth to both those characterizations, I am, at this moment, the Marlowe that has gone to, and come back from, the heart of darkness.

Sam, of ‘Sam’s Mets Blog’ fame, attended The Lawrenceville School for the last two years of his secondary education. At some point during the summer, an alumni e-mail list yielded an offer to attend a Yankees game with other alumni for what seemed to be a minimal cost—being generally interested in New York sports, particularly of the baseball variety, passing up this offer seemed foolish. After some consideration, I actually decided that watching a team that I despise while listening to a bunch of ageing preppies discuss their golf games and trying not to get Bud Light all over their polo shirts was an experience that I could take a pass on, and never mailed them a check. But they sent me a ticket anyway, and I decided that I might as well go.

Indeed, from the outset of this adventure, a basic similarity struck me between the Yankees and The Lawrenceville School. Both of them seem like some aging gambler who has spent the last thirty years stacking the deck, and yet somehow manages to believe that their continued winning is a result, not of the actions that they took to alter the odds in their favor, but of their skill at the game. The Lawrenceville School attracts rich kids, and provides them with an exceptional education and a resume that colleges drool over; if they somehow manage to succeed in life it is because of the strength of character that was instilled in them by the school. The Yankees get the best/most expensive free agents that they can, and win due to the discipline and pride that comes with the pinstripes.

Shea seems like a quaint and antiquated appendage of the military industrial complex, and I am not exactly prepared to offer any excuses for it, but it is, at the very least, quaint and antiquated, and, quite frankly, a little bit crummy: the neon baseball-playing stick figures on the outside belong very clearly to a graphic style not entirely current, the banners of great Mets that hang in the concourse around the stadium seem musty and dated. The whole thing seems like it belongs more in the province of whimsy and World Fairs: junior is merely in the boy scouts, at this point, and if that will eventually take him to Vietnam, well, that is on the horizon, and not specifically the spectacle that we are presented with.

To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, Yankee Stadium is what the whole hep world would be doing on a Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. The stadium is indeed a truly impressive, beautiful building, but the architecture of the place also serves to make the individual seem small and irrelevant. Met fans have, through decades of disappointment, had some sort of realism drummed into their skulls and their relationship to the team is equal parts adoration and anxiety (not dissimilar to the emotion referred to as love); Yankee fans, however, are sustained by some kind of raw fanaticism and belief. The most telling illustration of this is that, in Yankee stadium, whenever a Yankee bat makes contact with a ball the fans cheer fanatically until the second that it is caught, or lands in foul ground—Met fans have generally learned to withhold judgment until the completion of the play. In someway more diverse and proletarian than their Met counterparts, Yankee fans are more universally in team colors, and more uniform and dogmatic in their relationship to their team.

The social aspect of the evening was actually significantly better than I had expected. Due to an atrocious lack of planning, the Lawrentians were supposed to meet in Stan’s Sports Bar, which was more packed than the rush-hour train that had brought me there, and thoroughly un-navigatable. The primary beer that they serve is the Bostonian Sam Adams, and I assume that three or four times a season someone is struck by the irony of this-- tonight was my turn; eventually, however, I noticed a sign, hung among the bad paintings of Thurmon Munson and Derrick Jeter, proclaiming that Sam Adams was the only good thing to come out of Boston (I think I disagree with both aspects of that statement). I failed at finding my fellow alumni, and went into the Stadium on my own. When I eventually found my seat, the other alumni actually turned out to be more or less reasonable and inoffensive people—although I hedged my bets by not paying too much attention to them.

The worst aspect of the evening occurred when I was trying to get into the stadium: they would not let me in with my messenger bag and directed me back to Stan’s where I had to pay seven dollars to check it. Why they could not have paid a little more to have someone search my bag (I can’t fucking believe that this country has reached a point where I fucking want people to search my bag) is entirely mystifying and infuriating, but if I were to find out that Steinbrenner was a silent partner in the bag-check business, I wouldn’t be surprised. This was actually responsible for both of my reasons for leaving the game quite early: firstly I didn’t want to try to retrieve my bag anywhere near the time of the mass exodus from the stadium, and also I left my niccorette in it—you can’t smoke at all in Yankee Stadium, whereas in Shea they’ll let you light up in the weird walkways that run along the outside, overlooking the dismal bay.

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