Monday, August 4, 2008

On "Grand Cathedrals"

Phil Mushnick has a pretty good observation about all of the high and mighty language being used to describe Yankee Stadium in its dying days:

JOHN STERLING and Michael Kay were doing a good job hosting the last Old Timers' Day in Yankee Stadium Saturday when it was time to introduce Don Larsen. Larsen, Kay declared, had thrown the greatest game ever pitched in "this grand

And those are the kinds of words that have become troubling. If Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923, is a grand cathedral, why are they knocking it down?
It's a backhanded compliment, right? It's not unlike the retirement ceremony they recently had for a couple of guys retiring from my firm. "He has a mind like a steel trap," someone said of one my departing colleagues. Query: have you ever heard that description applied to anyone who was still considered relevant and important to an enterprise?

Of course you haven't. It's a nicety applied to someone on the way out, just like the "grand cathedral" crap is applied to Yankee stadium. It's about describing the unwanted and undesirable in nicer terms.


Chris Heer said...

Good point about the "steel trap" line.

But I don't know that it's always back-handed. There's something about the human condition that makes us speak in reverential terms about someone/something that is soon to be gone (or recently gone). "Don't speak ill of the dead" could apply here. Ever see an asshole retire? People all say nice things, even though nobody could stand the guy.

You watch. When Kevin Costner passes on, people will talk about the guy like he was Orson freakin' Welles instead of a deeper version of Keanu Reeves.

I'm sorry; what was my point again?

Mark Runsvold said...

There's a certain class of topics about which people speak as if irony doesn't exist.

Mark Runsvold said...

And Chris is right, it's a phenomenon you can observe everywhere, which means it's probably fundamentally human. I think to a certain extent we say nice things about the dead and retired because we want people to say nice things about us when we die or retire.

Chris Heer said...

I'm not sure it's so much that as people want to appear to be magnanimous, as if we get karma points (or whatever) for saying good things and sounding sincere, even if we don't really think it/mean it.

I know I fall into this trap myself, and I couldn't give a flying weevil what people say about me after I die.

Richard Dansky said...

Most cathedrals don't come with luxury boxes, I'm afraid.

Osmodious said...

Well, there is one difference...they didn't wait until the final year to refer to the place as 'the cathedral of baseball'. People have been referring to it that way for years and years (look back at some Gammons editorials from years past).

Look, I am as upset about this whole thing (the tearing down of history) as anybody...probably as upset as I've ever been in my life. When they first talked about the plans, I was apoplectic...and everyone thought I was nuts. Maybe they thought that they would build the new stadium on the site of the old one (why didn't they, again?), but once they showed the plans nobody said anything. I guess they all just wanted the shiny new stadium.

Sacrifice one of the best homefield advantages in all of sports...then act sanctimonious about the 'final season'. Ugh...if you find it annoying, think about how Yankees fans feel...

Jason said...

I'm less apoplectic than Os. I've been to Yankee Stadium so many times, too many to count, and while I recognize and embrace the history, the place (the guts) is not a great fan experience. The corridors are dark and narrow. The bathrooms, well, you can imagine. You have to arrive as the gates open and sprint to get to Monument Park.

I've allowed the new stadium to grow on me, with the exception being the simple fact that they are pricing it so astronomically that it will be rough to BUY tickets to take the family. Maybe I can weasel some from friends who's Wall Street firms have tickets.

I guess I am simply arguing both sides of the coin. I'm sad to see the Old House go and while I am psyched to have a new House to move into, it's going to be so expensive.

Osmodious said...

Jason, yes, Yankee Stadium has gotten pretty dingy, and it was built in an era when stadia were still places people went to see sports, rather than competition for theaters and the like (eg. cinderblock is an acceptable medium).

However, here's the thing...after this season, you will never have an opposing batter having a monster season step into the lefties' box, with the game on the line and the crowd going bonkers feel that pressure. Not the run-of-the-mill pressure that a situation like that engenders. No, the kind where he is reminded that Babe Ruth stood HERE...Mickey Mantle stood HERE. No more will fans sit in the stands and say, "Someone sat right here and watched Babe Ruth do x." or whatever.

It will be gone. All of it...gone.

Several years ago, my mom had a procedure done at Columbia hospital, not far from the Stadium. They had a lovely little courtyard that I wandered around for a while...then I spotted something under a bush. I pushed the branches away and there was a granite memorial with a brass plaque: "On this spot stood homeplate, New York Highlanders baseball field" I looked around and tried to picture what it must have looked like...but it was impossible.

It breaks my heart to think that in a few years, all that will be left of The House That Ruth Built...the scene of so much AMERICAN history, not just baseball (or even sports history)...will be a little granite marker with a brass plaque that dogs (and perhaps others) will use as a toilet.

Newer, prettier, more comfortable, 'nicer', more shopping and food choices and more expensive does NOT mean 'better'.