Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Yankee Excess

I have not been to the "new" Yankee Stadium yet, and I do not plan on going to the new Yankee Stadium unless I am somehow kidnapped at the Bowling Green subway stop by ruffians from Morgan Stanley who need someone to help fill their luxury box. In fact, on television, it would appear the new Yankee Stadium looks exactly like the old Yankee Stadium, except it costs three times as much. It's like they've upgraded from a generic pharmaceutical to a brand-name pharmaceutical (which apparently Yankee fans have something of a need for anyway). And as with pharmaceuticals, the only people who can tell the difference between the two are the people making the profits.

However, it's been interesting to witness the backlash against the new Yankee Stadium. In a way, much of this is to be expected--it is the Yankees, after all. But given their bumbling ways, it seems that they've become a cipher for the populist rage that has become so trendy at both extremes of the political spectrum. It is not a good time to be a bloated and unnecessarily gilded American institution, as Matt Taibbi, an undeniably talented writer and reporter who is sort of like the Dave Kingman of the populist screed, proved with this recent evisceration of Yankee GM Brian Cashman.*

I suppose the larger question, at least for me, is: Will it last? It seems we're asking this question of a number of American institutions--whether this trend toward populism is simply a product of the flatlining economy, and if/when the economy turns around, these same major American institutions will once again become bloated with money and self-importance, and if, in another 10-15 years, these same institutions will once again become victims of their own hubris. And in sports, I suppose we can ask the same question. I do think sports truly blew up--in a monetary sense--in the '80's, which is why I chose to write a book about that era; and I don't think there's ever really been a "correction," so to speak. And I'm not saying that salaries will ever trickle back down to a level where Dustin Pedroia will be forced to take a job at a BP Station in the offseason*, but I wonder if the new Yankee Stadium, with its overpriced steakhouses (where, as Paul Lukas informs us, a New York strip will set you back five sawbucks) and its $12.50 beers and its $2500 seats, will become a paean to aughts-decade excess, a monument to a time when the games finally outgrew themselves.

*Though as long as it is not in his hometown, I'll bet could do this job quite well.

(Photo: Julie Jacobson, AP/NYT)

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