You and your hot garbage smells, your abbreviated neighborhood names and your willingness to tell me to hustle it up when I'm in your way at a subway station.
You're one hell of a city and one hell of a baseball town.
My four-day jaunt out to the land of Bloomberg and overpriced street hot dogs wasn't work-related, but the amount of time spent discussing sports with strangers would suggest otherwise. It seemed every other person wanted to discuss the Mets injuries or the grandeur of Mark Teixiera with me, a simple corn-fed Midwesterner.
What a world.
But for all the talking, it was a moment of awed silence that made the loudest statement.
Or so I thought.
The new Yankee Stadium somehow blends all of the history and legend seamlessly with all of the 21st Century amenities that fans have come to demand. It sits right across the street from the old one, but the two stadiums are worlds apart when it comes to vision. The House That Ruth Built was constructed solely as a place to watch a baseball game, making use of every inch of space. The upper decks were angled so steeply that it was a nervous prospect watching already drunk patrons stumble up and down the concrete stairs. The new version is the future without sacrificing the past. Some of the quirky charms are gone, but the new additions more than make up for the losses.
But back to that moment of silence.
My friend and I were late in getting our tickets -- for a variety of reasons. I'm not saying that women take longer to get ready than men. But, I'm not saying they take less time. So, we were running behind schedule. This didn't stop me from halting in my tracks upon entering the gates. There, in a great wide-open hall adorned with brilliant columns was homage after homage to Yankee greats. Unforgettable names like DiMaggio, Gehrig, Rizzuto.
I couldn't move. It was breathtaking. Even for a cynic like me. We missed the National Anthem and the first couple of batters because I was lost in a sort of childish wonder we don't get to experience often enough. The shimmering sun afforded the area ample light and the hustle and bustle of tens of thousands of fans hustled to their seats or did what I was doing: just taking it all in.
It was in stark contrast from the somewhat dingy nether regions of the old place. Again, newer isn't always better. But, no one could argue that the so-called Yankee Stadium mystique was cheapened with the move. This, of course, is no simple feat. In fact, if there ever comes a day when Wrigley Field is remade, this would be the perfect blueprint for how to do it. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
The playing area looks much like it once did, but everything is cleaner, newer, shinier. An enormous high-definition screen in center field has replaced the eyesore of tarped bleachers. The stands seem to climb higher and higher, adding to the grandeur. Twenty-five dollar tickets meant we were approximately 500 feet from the actual field.
It didn't matter. The sight lines were clear and the fellow patrons were cordial, even to a couple of hostile fans.
Of course, there were some downsides. Beers were $10. Nachos were $7. Soft pretzels were $6. In short, it's insanely expensive. Alex Rodriguez hit a 320-foot pop-up over the ridiculously short right-field fence to beat my team. It hardly seemed fair that a man of his size be rewarded for such a mediocre hit.
Oh, well. The feast of the senses was easily reward enough for the money and time spent.
Yankee captain and winning-enthusiast Derek Jeter is still introduced by a recording of legendary PA announcer Bob Sheppard. Monument park is now in center, but it's still as meaningful. The dimensions are the same, but there are more seats in the outfield. Mariano Rivera still comes into the game to "Enter Sandman." Beer is still beer, even at 10 bucks per glass. The Yankees are still tough to beat in New York.
All is not new.
And it's this sense of attention to detail and history that led to a great Saturday in the park at the most expensive baseball stadium of all-time. Most rewarding was the knowledge that millions of other fans will have the same opportunity I had, that for so many decades baseball in the Bronx will be much like it was.
Sort of inspiring. Even for a cynic.