Just back from the Virginia Festival of the Book, which was great fun. The panel on humor in mysteries (go figure) went well, spent a bunch of time with my pal Rosemary Harris, as well as such fun people as Libby Fischer Hellmann, Clare Langley-Hawthorne and Con Lehane, among many others. Kudos to Nancy Damon and her intrepid (and large) band of volunteers for pulling off such a monumental task so well. (But seriously, pork at the Crime Wave lunch? They didn't know Semitic types would be in attendance?)
But that's not why I called you here today.
Please don't call me, email me, or in any way expect me to communicate with you this afternoon after 1 p.m. (EST). It might be rude, but I won't be receiving any messages. It's a religious holiday for me.
This is it: Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. The REAL Yankee Stadium (well, sort of: this is the refurbished model with the cheesy 1970s design, but still, it's the original piece of ground, in the original spot). For the last time. Ever.
Next year, no doubt after Major League Baseball's scheduling geniuses determine they should play their opening games in Zaire, Beirut, or Kansas City, the New York Yankees will play their first home game in something they'll call Yankee Stadium. But it won't really be Yankee Stadium. It will be the Theme Park version of Yankee Stadium.
A theme park for rich people.
Baseball, America's Pastime, has progressed to the point that it is now the pastime only for people who have benefitted from the Bush tax cuts--that is to say, the top two percent of the country when measured by income. Tickets to the ball game are upwards of $100 for the mediocre seats, a hot dog costs more than a porterhouse steak at the supermarket, and a bottle of water--something you couldn't even get in the original Yankee Stadium--might require a home equity loan, assuming your home still has any equity. Might be better to borrow against the bottle of water.
But that's not elite enough. The "Yankee Stadium" currently under construction, the house that George is Building (and we don't mean George Herman Ruth) will have fewer seats than the one that will be packed to the gills today. Do the Yankees have to worry about filling the house, so they're cutting back on seats to make the place look more full?
Hardly. Before a pitch has been thrown, the New York Yankees will have sold better than 3.5-million tickets for the 2008 season. That's probably more than they sold in three seasons during the mid-80s, combined. They've set new attendance records every one of the past three years, and would probably continue to do so, which is a puzzlement, given that the place has a finite number of seats and a finite number of games played there every year. But they manage.
So, why the cutback in the retro-but-high-tech park now being built, and already displacing neighborhood ball fields in the South Bronx? The answer is two-fold:
1. Baseball fans, apparently, are fatter than they were in 1923, when the other George opened his park, so each seat in the new "Yankee Stadium" will be wider than before;
2. There have to be more luxury boxes for corporations and absurdly wealthy people, so something had to give. Apparently, the Yankees don't need the average fan so much, as long as Donald Trump has a cozy place during the game to store that badger he keeps on his head.
You'd think there'd by outcry. You'd think there'd be revolution. A boycott. A nasty letter in the New York Times. Something. But no. Fans will pack the current Yankee Stadium for 82 games (and, I'll predict, the postseason) this year, and they'll pack the new "Yankee Stadium" for the same number of games next year, possibly selling out even faster. After all, there won't be as many seats.
Sometimes, even I wonder why I'm still a Yankee fan.
And then, they throw the first pitch, and sitting in front of my television, miles from either version of the House that George Built (pick your George), I remember.