Monday 31 October 2011

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Saying No to the New York Yankees

Yankee stadium. To me it's one of the ultimate sporting destinations, and the fact that it's been replaced by a newer version makes no difference in my mind. Nor does it matter that I'm not a Yankees fan (I'm an Oakland guy), the history of the Yankees franchise has so many great characters and stories that I couldn't come to New York and not make a trip out to see the stadium. I wanted to go for the atmosphere. I wanted to go for the tradition. I wanted to go for the history.

Lori wanted to go to catch a ball. Actually Lori will go to almost anything if there's a chance of catching a ball. Or a puck. Or a rock or a frisbee or whatever item it is that the game we're attending uses. The best part is that she is the most eternally optimistic person in the world when it comes to catching things, even though she's never caught anything in her life (Well, she did catch a feather thrown by the Indian of the Village People once, but even I can't spin that into something sports related.). Every sporting event we go to, she's convinced that the ball is coming her way. We once sat in the top deck for a Los Angeles Clippers game, and you could see Lori trying to figure out how the ball was going to get to her. I don't know what could possibly happen in a basketball game for the ball to end up in the top deck, but that, my friends, is the definition of optimism.

We decided to get to the game the way a true New Yorker would (because being from western Canada I know exactly what a native New Yorker would do) and take the subway. It's a pretty easy ride out to Yankee Stadium, but the further you get from Manhattan the more colorful your traveling companions become. By the time we were entering the South Bronx every person on the train reminded me of one of the terrorists from "The Taking of Pelham 123". No sign of John Travolta or Denzel Washington though. They probably don't take the subway to games.

Of course, getting to the stadium was only half the journey. Now we had to climb up to our seats. Since neither Lori nor I are huge baseball fans, we didn't bother to splash out big money on tickets. We were coming more to see the stadium than the actual game, so any ticket that allowed us inside the park would do. Needless to say, the cheap seats are cheap for a reason. After what seemed like 20 or 30 escalator rides and a couple of stops to acclimate to the altitude, we arrived at the top deck of Yankee Stadium. How high up were we? Even my eternal optimist wife looked at me and said "We're never going to catch a ball up here are we?"

Once we got to our seats, we realized that we had made a mistake in our ascent. Obviously when you buy tickets in the top deck you're supposed to take the stairs up instead of the escalator, as that's the only way you could possibly stay skinny enough to fit in the seats up there. In addition, the Yankees have ensured that you'll receive a true baseball experience by making sure that every row has at least one child who's only purpose at the game is to repeatedly kick the row of seats in front of him. We were fortunate enough to have a family of three behind us, which ensured that we never ran out of rhythmic beating, even when one of their legs got tired. Lori and I lasted through the first couple of innings, then decided that we'd had enough of our underage masseuses, and we set off to explore the stadium.

There's plenty to see in the stadium, most of which probably means a lot more to diehard Yankees fans than it did to us, but it was still interesting. The one place that absolutely captivated us however, was the Great Hall. This is the main entry area of the stadium, and giant banners hang on the sides commemorating some of the greatest baseball players ever. You know they were great players when even Lori recognized some of them, although you did have to read between the lines a little to understand who she was talking about (when she says "That candy bar guy" she means Babe Ruth). Still, when you're surrounded by that much history and the images of all the great players of the past, there's only one thing to do, and that's take pictures.

That's what we were doing in the Great Hall when a stadium employee approached us. He asked us if we wanted him to take our picture together which we gladly accepted as the number of in focus (meaning not taken by one of our kids) pictures of the two of us together is ridiculously low. After we finished smiling for a couple of pictures, the gentleman gave us back our camera and then explained that he worked for the online division of the New York Yankees, and asked if he could take our picture for the Yankees website.

You'd think nobody had ever told him "no" before. In fact, he kept setting up for the shot for a few seconds before he realizing what we had said and coming back with "I'm sorry, did you say no?" I explained that we were just visiting the stadium and that we weren't really interested in being on their website, but no matter what I said he kept coming back with "But it's the Yankees." Eventually people started to pause to see what the conversation was about, and I decided that we'd be best served to make our getaway now before the temptation to yell "I don't like the Yankees" overtook me. Strategically plotting our escape route took us past a couple of drunk twenty something girls who immediately captured the photographers attention and, let's face it, will do far more good for the Yankees website than a couple of middle age Oakland fans.

We left the game early, having gotten our fill of Yankee lore for the time being. Yankee Stadium is absolutely beautiful, but I don't feel any real pull to get back there right away. There are other stadiums I'd like to see like Fenway, Wrigley, and of course the Oakland Coliseum. I'm not sure my wife will be willing to indulge my live sports fetish to quite that extent though. Maybe I should aim for the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Texas as there's more home runs hit there than anywhere else. One of these days, she'll catch something more than a feather.