Don’t Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Where have all the rich folks gone? Long time passing....

I just caught a game at the new Yankee Stadium. I was glad I went, but I won’t be back soon. It was a pleasant, but not a transcendent experience, and it was not worth the money.

The new park is nice, especially when compared to junk piles like Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field or Boston’s Fenway Park (the latter easily the most overrated venue in America). But it’s hard to see why Yankee Stadium should have cost $1.5 billion and it’s distressing to contemplate how many better uses that money could have served in the Dante’s Inferno called the Bronx. And, truth be told, the Yankees didn’t need a new park.

What new visitors will notice is the jumbo-sized video screen in centerfield, the wide concourses, and the impressive Great Hall festooned with three-story banners of past Yankee heroes that greets you when you enter the park. The seats are wider, the facades outlining the upper deck are a nice touch, the sightlines are clean, and the vantage point outside of Gate Four conjures images of imperial Rome. Beyond these, however, the new park is a clone of the old House that George Steinbrenner Rebuilt. I was surprised by the lack of design that went into new Yankee Stadium. For over a billion dollars I expected something more akin to baseball’s jewel, Baltimore’s Camden Yard. And they can blow up the damned video screen. It’s just a bunch of noise and distraction. 101-feet long and they can’t find space to put up the balls and strikes?

Most of the dough went into things we mortals will never see: the clubhouses, the training rooms, and above all—the luxury boxes, suites, private clubs, and amenities aimed at the high rollers. Since most of the latter choked on their own greed and perished in the Stock Market collapse, Yankee Stadium has a lot of facilities collecting cobwebs. These include the embarrassingly empty field-level box seats that were supposed to be filled with fat asses shelling out up to $2500 per game. The Yankees should repent this folly and put these seats up for public sale at $100 each. In the old days Joe Sixpack left the bleachers for a once-a-year splurge for a box seat for himself and his kid. As often as not that experience turned wide-eyed kids into lifelong baseball fans. Now Joe would have to sell a kidney (and maybe the kid as well) to get anywhere near those seats. Yankee stadium is crawling with security guards to make sure commoners can’t get near the lower level. They won’t even allow you to enter empty concourse areas to snap a photograph before the friggin’ game.

If you’re not an oil baron, here’s what you’ll shell out at Yankee Stadium. “General Admission” tickets are a myth; these have been bought by consolidators, speculators, and season ticketholders displaced from the old park. Expect to pay double the face value. My upper grandstand ticket cost me $50. If Jeeves isn’t dropping you off in front of your suite, it will cost at least $19 to park your car. Hotdogs are $5.75; a pulled pork sandwich (not bad!) will set you back $10. Bottled water is $4 and everything from cotton candy to popcorn is marked up astronomically. Beer is nine bucks a bottle. (The day I spend $9 for a Budweiser is the day you can donate my brain to science.) I was quite modest and managed to spend just $15 on concessions and, since it was Cap Day I wasn’t tempted by the ubiquitous “official gear” kiosks. Get thee to a Bob’s Store to buy t-shirts, unless you find virtue in shelling out $35 for run-of-the-mill logo apparel. Tolls on the Henry Hudson—and good luck finding it from the horrendous traffic rerouting—will cost another $5.50. Toss in $20 for gas if you’re traveling any distance and another $10 to have some pizza and beer in New Haven on the way home and your day to Yankee Stadium will run you around a hundred bucks a person if you’re being frugal. (Go to baseball’s most expensive venue, Fenway Park, and it will cost about a third more.)

A hundred bucks is a buck more than I pay for a subscription to MLB.com, which allows me to watch every game in the country for the entire year. While the experience of watching games on the Internet—even in high def—isn’t the same as being at the park, the seating, sightlines, beer, and food are way cheaper and better at home. And if that’s what a baseball nut like me has concluded, it gives pause about how much longer MLB can put fannies in the seats. Don’t take me out to the ballgame. I’m sick of subsidizing rich people’s playgrounds.



Barbés Records 0021

The Iron Curtain didn’t was swept away by a global tidal wave and the Warsaw Village Band is the musical embodiment of the flotsam left in its wake. This is decidedly not your grandmother’s Polish dance band. There are no accordions present and you won’t find a polka until track nine. Good luck in recognizing it as such! What you will find are snippets of traditional Polish music as filtered through industrial rock, African village singing, Delta blues, Bollywood, reggae, primal keening, Goth sensibilities, and your local disco. Mix those elements with soupcons of Sweden’s Garmarna and Finland’s mighty Värttinä and you’ll still have to hear this band to get a sense of how glorious they truly are. Can you imagine what Willie Dixon would have played on cello? Check out “Little Baby Blues.” How about a raga in which fiddles and dulcimers sound like a sitar on LSD? Listen to “Circle No. 1.” There’s no guitar anywhere on this record, yet it sounds wilder than anything Jimi Hendrix ever envisioned. Spin “Wise Kid Song” and the cello, fiddle, and frame drums will explode in your head like a Fillmore West light show. And the abandonment with which Maja Kleszcz, Magdalena Sobczak, Sylwia Swiatkowska, and Wojtek Krzak attack the vocals is almost frightening. It’s been a long time since a new release so utterly blew me away. This is truly one of the best global fusion records of the 21st century.--LV

Check out this YouTube video.



The NHL and NBA are deep into the playoffs now. A few thoughts, the first of which is why the hell are they still playing? When I’m elected Grand Exalted Poohbah in Charge of Everything the following rules will apply:

· Absolutely no hockey after April 30 or before October 1.
· No pro basketball after May 15 or before October 15.
· No pro football in the summer. Ever. Under any circumstance.
· The World Series must be finished by October 20. The MLB season may not begin until April 15.

The Only Reason to Watch the Rangers!

National Hockey League:

· The collapse of the Sharks is stunning. The Bruins were right; Joe Thornton is the reincarnation of Eric Lindros—lots of talent, no guts.
· I root for the Rangers, a hobby only slightly less painful than pounding nails in my own forehead, but Hendrik Lundquist is a great goalie.
· I was disgusted by the way the Boston Globe trashed the Bruins when they were “upset” by the Hurricanes. So which of their brilliant experts picked the Bruins to be in the chase for the President’s Cup? This gritty, well-coached bunch overachieved all year and their achievement should be celebrated. Still another reason why out-of-towners can’t stand Boston sports fans and their all-or-nothing smugness.
· They may not win the Stanley Cup—though I’d not bet against it—but it’s a sheer delight to watch the Red Wings. They are disciplined, skilled, and fundamentally sound.
· Can’t stand the Penguins or Girly Boy Crosby, but I want them to beat the Hurricanes. Anything to hasten the demise of hockey south of the Mason-Dixon.
· Another year with no Cup in Canada. When it finally comes all of the Great White North will worship the team that delivers it.
· Will someone please shoot Gary Bettman so the Coyotes can move to Hamilton?

The NBA Unveils its New Logo

National Boring Association

· How can March Madness be so exciting and the NBA playoffs such a crashing bore?
· Millions of kids are shooting hoops all across America. So why can only a handful of NBA players hit a 20-foot J and make a free throw? And why are three-quarters of them European? Might be time to turn off the ESPN dunk highlights and enroll in fundamentals drills classes.
· If I coached the Orlando Magic I’d do to LeBron James what teams did to Michael Jordan when he was young: concede his 35 ppg. and shut down everyone else. It’s still a team game.
· Count me among those who don’t buy the James hype. I’m in awe of his natural ability, but his basketball IQ remains suspect.
· Will the NBA brass and accountants commit hari-kari if the Nuggets win it all? I’d love to see it. Denver is one of the few teams that’s actually fun to watch. And what were the Celtics thinking when they let Chauncey Billups go?
· Speaking of the Celtics, hope fans (me included) enjoyed last year’s championship because it’s the last one they’ll see for awhile. All the attention was on Kevin Garnett, but the guy who’s done is Ray Allen. Management should start rebuilding this team around Rajon Rondo and phase out the Big Three. Resign Big Baby; he’s a keeper. No one else on the bench warrants a second thought. (Well, maybe Bill Walker.)
· The upcoming draft looks weaker than Dick Cheney’s morality. Anyone with a mid-round or lower pick (like the Celtics) ought to move that pick for proven talent.