A somewhat stream of consciousness rant about a recent moronic piece of Yankees-related sportswriting…
Charles P. Pierce (the P stands for Pretentious) is a writer for Grantland who loves to wax nostalgic about the simple joys of sports. Pierce took a trip to Yankee Stadium on Sunday to watch the Bombers’ 6-4 win over the Rays, and he did not like what he saw. Gone was the dilapidated, jail-like, dimly lit, GOOD OLD-FASHIONED Yankee Stadium. In its place was, as Pierce put it, “a wholly created zone of 21st-century Mammon that seems to have been dropped in from another planet, a distant world beyond pawn shops and diners and Knickerbocker beer.”
If you listen real hard, you can hear Bing Crosby warbling from the jukebox in the corner of Pierce’s warped, nostalgic vision of Yankee Stadium, back when the team had a quota on black players and fans regularly threw batteries at opposing right fielders. I was at that Yankee Stadium in 1995, when Jay Buhner was pelted with batteries and a drunken fan bellowed at me and my family in the middle of a playoff game for no discernible reason. I do not wistfully recall that atmosphere, because it sucked. As much as the loud, obstreperous and borderline violent milieu of the old Stadium created an electric atmosphere in big October moments,it was loud, obstreperous and borderline violent. Is that what Pierce is yearning for?
Apparently it is. Rays manager Joe Maddon was ejected in the third inning, and NYPD officers came out and stood on the field, a pro forma move to prevent any drunken whack jobs from coming on the field. Pierce saw something different:
It was then that I noticed that the cops had come out to ring the field, and it struck me that what we have done in our modern homogenized era, when we have handed our sports entirely over to television, that great murderer of spontaneity, is that we have created a demand for a television experience even at the ballpark itself, with commercials and public service announcements and nothing at all that will surprise us ever again.
When did that happen? I wondered. When did we need police protection from a run-of-the-mill ballgame rhubarb? When did we start playing our games in gated communities?
Are you serious? Are you serious?!?!?! Protecting the safety of the players and coaches — you know, the talent — equates to playing in a gated community?? Tell that to Tom Gamboa, the former Kansas City Royals first base coach who was brutally beaten in 2002 by a drunken father-and-son evolutionary mistake running onto the field unmolested. Tell it to umpire Laz Diaz, who was attacked by a fan on the field in 2003 but was fortunately able to subdue him. Those are surprises that nobody wants — not fans, not players, not the media, probably not even Pierce. So when he whines that police on the field during a “run-of-the-mill ballgame rhubarb” are a sad reminder of the modern, homogenized era, I’m not really sure what he’s talking about.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t yearn for Disco Demolition Night, or Ten-Cent Beer Night, or the horrific Gamboa incident. As a baseball lover, I want the game to be free from physical harm caused by lowlifes who mistake a baseball stadium for a back alley behind a dive bar. “When did that happen?” Pierce asks incredulously, speaking about the police on the field. It happened when a coach got beat half to death, Charles. It happened when baseball decided to value civilization and safety over a blithe desire to keep things the same, always, for all time.