Tuesday, January 22, 2008

God Save the Fan

As you probably know, Will Leitch's new book "God Save the Fan: How Preening Sportscasters, Athletes Who Speak in the Third Person, and the Occasional Convicted Quarterback Have Taken the Fun Out of Sports (And How We Can Get It Back)" comes out today. I've read it and it's great, and I highly recommend that you check it out.

No full review yet because my advance copy came courtesy of the New York Post which, for some reason, asked me to review it for them, and since they're paying me and you're not, they get it first (the review should run on Sunday and I'll be sure to link it here).

In the meantime, I'll share one of my favorite passages in the book:

. . .as far as I'm concerned, there's not a stadium in all of sports that's a less enjoyable place to watch a sporting event than Yankee Stadium. It's not just that the park, because of an ill-fated mid-70s remodeling, has the nostalgic architecture of an International House of Pancakes (Though that doesn't help). It's that the mythos of Yankee Stadium, hand in hand with that unique blend of entitlement and narcissism that makes New York what it is, have combined to make attending a game there feel like you've been invited to your rich uncle's house, the one who never talks to you, works for some evil law firm somewhere, and makes you take your shoes off the minute you get out of the car. Oh, and he charges you forty bucks once you make it through the front door. It's the biggest rip-off in all of sports.

He may be based in Brooklyn, but Leitch is all-Midwest, and I mean that as a compliment.

Like I said, it's a good book, and a very different beast than Deadspin in many important ways (there is very little re-hashed content and is far less snarky and flip than you might expect). I highly recommend it.


Osmodious said...

Then again, Yankee Stadium is the only sporting venue in which I've witnessed opposing players receive ovations for excellent play.

The generalizations about Yankee fans are, to an extent, fabrications of the media. Yankee fans have a terrible reputation, yet I've never felt threatened or insecure/unsafe at The Stadium...even when wearing my Twins cap (on the other hand, I have friends from Boston who are even afraid to go to Fenway, and they told me I'd probably wind up in hospital if I went and cheered for the opposition).

There is just...something...about Yankee Stadium. Yes, it's a rathole. Yes, the seats are cramped. Yes, you have to take out a 2nd mortgage for tickets (and a 3rd if you want company or food). But...the air is different. The field is different. Bob Sheppard is, well, his voice is as imposing as Darth Vader's, yet somehow as gentle and kind as Mr. Rogers'.

I know the new Stadium will be wonderful, the way that the Phillies park and Camden Yards are. But it won't be Yankee Stadium. Opposing teams will not walk up to that left hand batters' box and say "this is where Babe Ruth/Mickey Mantle/etc. stood." They won't look out at those black seats and marvel that that is where the fence used to be (and yet homeruns were hit there), with those memorials and the flag IN PLAY.

Yankee Stadium is a contradiction, to be sure. It is equal parts wonderful and awful. It is the House That Ruth Built and the House That Randy Levine Tore Down. When you are a Yankee fan and haven't been there in a while, you *feel* it in your soul and HAVE TO go back. Then you walk down those cramped cinderblock corridors for miles to get to the one edible food vendor to pay your month's salary for a hot dog and beer which will be cold by the time you crush your way through the crowd to your 3/4 size seat and swear never again...and then you watch the game and realize that David Wells is perfect through 6 innings and it's only a few weeks since his Perfect Game and the place is just...vibrating.

Yeah, you can get some of the positive feelings in other parks (I still have tinnitis from the Metrodome, I think)...but there is something more at The Stadium. There is history...amazing history. And when you are there, you are a part of it.

We are all about tearing down and discarding history in this country, and that is just a damned shame.

Pete Toms said...

I've been to Yankee Stadium 4 times.

Yes, it's a shit hole and most of the seats are "upstairs" but I love it. It's the fans, the accents ( particularly if you sit in the bleachers ), the interest, the zeal...and I've never been treated or seen anybody treated badly.

My 2nd trip to The Stadium ( the first was the day before Wells' perfect game - Tewksbury vs Mendoza ) was Game 6 vs Seattle. The subway series was next. I sat in the bleachers and the fans were insane. It's the only baseball game I've attended where I stood for it seemed 3/4 of the game. If you didn't stand, you couldn't see. And my memory tells me it wasn't just the cheap seats where people stood for most of the game. I recall watching the subway series on TV and the games at Yankee Stadium lacked the excitement of the game I attended. The real Yankee fans were replaced by the see & be seen crowd.

The new Yankee stadium will certainly be better in many ways. More seats "downstairs", better concessions, washrooms etc. Obviously better boxes ( like I'll ever visit one ). My fear is those guys with the thick Bronx accents, that get loaded in the bowling alley/bar across the street from the bleachers entrances, those guys that I've sat amongst and talked baseball with, will be priced out of the game. That would be a shame. They make going to "the stadium", "the stadium".