By Bob Gaydos
I had the a) privilege; b) opportunity; c) misfortune of attending the Yankees/Red Sox game last Saturday night with my 16-year-old son Zack and his 22-year-old cousin, Andy. It was the Jorge Posada Game. Or rather, the “Where the heck is Jorge Posada?” Game. We sat in the right field seats, near the foul pole. Second deck. Actually, decent seats to watch a wholly indecent game, at least as far as the Yankees are concerned. They could not hit; C.C. could not pitch. It was so boring, all the Red Sox fans in our section didn’t even get excited over winning, 6-0.
In fact, the game was so boring I spent more time observing the “fans” around us and left wondering who the heck these people were because they definitely were not baseball fans.
We were surrounded by what I guess would be considered upwardly mobile young people -- males and females between 25 and 35 years old with an apparently unlimited supply of disposable income. I surmise this because of all the couples surrounding us (and they were all boy/girl couples) not one ever had even a fleeting conversation about the game we were supposedly watching. I know this because, as I said, the game was so boring you could hear everyone’s conversation.
The two couples behind us talked non-stop the entire game. No one ever mentioned a player’s name or a game situation. They did drink a lot of beer and eat and laugh a lot and the guys wore Yankees jerseys, but I had to wonder why they couldn’t find a cheaper place to double date on a Saturday night.
The same went for two couples two rows in front us. The girls spent most of the game going somewhere or other with each other, coming back with a new bottle of beer ($9) each time. The words, “Let’s go, Yankees!” never passed their lips and they didn’t even notice that Jorge wasn’t in the lineup.
They all did, however, enjoy the stadium cuisine, which is priced to make movie theater food seem cheap. (I sent Zack up with $10 for two more hot dogs and he had to kick in a couple bucks of his own.) Another young guy in front of us sat down with a $25 bucket of chicken wings and a couple of beers. There were probably fries involved, too. He and his date disappeared somewhere in the middle of the game. I don’t know which team they were rooting for.
The highlight of the game (I know because Zack posted it on his Facebook page) came when the very quiet young man sitting directly in front of us got hit, first by a hot dog, then by a beer shower, from the third deck directly above us. Since he was wearing a Lester shirt, we assumed he was a Boston fan and so we got some not-so-secret (we smiled at each other) enjoyment out of his misfortune. But he never even got angry. His date did, looking skyward with a “Who are those cretins?” gaze. But “Lester” sat there calmly. He didn’t even cheer when Adrian Gonzalez buried the Yankees with a three-run home run.
Who are these people?
When I was their age (yeah, I know, here goes the old guy talking about the good old days), if you were fool enough to take a non-baseball-savvy date to a baseball game, you planned on explaining some of the nuances of the game. (“He’s bunting to put the runner on second base so he can score on a hit. You can hit foul balls ’til the cows come home.”) You didn’t mind that because she was at least feigning interest in the game and it made you feel competent. Who cared what the hot dogs cost?
I once took a date to a Yankee game and sagely informed her that Yogi Berra (stop adding up the years) was a very good bad-ball hitter. It didn’t matter if it was a strike, Yogi could hit it out. Which, God bless his pinstriped soul, he promptly did. Right down the right field line, near the foul pole in the old Yankee Stadium, where the seats didn’t cost anywhere near as much as the similar ones we had in the new stadium.
Of course, our seats Saturday were wider and definitely more comfortable. They cost a hundred bucks each, which is why I was wondering who these young men were who were taking young women on a date to a baseball game which they clearly didn’t care about and which would cost them close to $500 anyway by time they got through parking, paying tolls, eating and drinking. Even in Manhattan, dinner and a movie is cheaper.
I did notice that there were empty seats Saturday night, which is not something the Yankees saw in the last few years at the old stadium. Ticket prices and the cost of food and drink and souvenirs have risen beyond all reason at the ballpark. I think this has led to a new kind of “fan,” a social fan, if you will. These are young people -- apparently with healthy incomes -- who go to the Yankee game because it’s seen as the place to be. Whatever “cool” is today, this is it. (“Yeah, Cindy and I went to the Yankee game Saturday night with Mitch and Amy. Awesome. Posada what? Didn’t play? Didn’t notice.”)
Because they have not been winning lately, a Mets game does not carry the same cache as a Yankee game, but I am willing to bet there are many more actual conversations about baseball at Citi Field than at the new Yankee Stadium. Not that it’s any cheaper.
It was, in sum, disappointing, insofar as the game went. But Zack, Andy and I enjoyed the day and taking the train to the game made it real easy. We’ll do it again and hope for a better performance by the “Bombers.”
As for the fans, that may be another matter: In the bottom of the ninth inning, the game all but over and half the people gone, the Yankee ball boy along the right field foul line tossed a warmup ball to a young kid standing at the railing. Some 35-ish guy wearing a suit (A suit! At a baseball game!) and a glove reached over the kid’s head and grabbed the ball. He rejoiced in his theft, holding both arms to the sky to a chorus of boos from the remaining fans. He smiled and held the ball aloft as he returned to his seat along the fence (we’re talking four figures here) and adamantly refused to “Give the kid the ball!” as the chants demanded. Security came and talked to him. He clutched the ball more defiantly, perhaps anticipating his Monday morning spotlight. (“Yeah, went to the Yankee game Saturday night. Great seats. Got the ball Swisher was warming up with in right field. … What about Posada?”)
Just as I was saying to myself for the twentieth time, “Who are these people?” a gray-haired gentleman wearing khakis and a green windbreaker, walked slowly from his seat further up the right field line to where the kid and the suit were sitting. The guy in the windbreaker held out his hand and gave the kid a ball he had snared earlier in the game. Then he turned and walked back to his seat to watch the Yankees go down without a threat.
By this time, all those twenty-somethings had long been gone, probably looking for a bar to refresh their game memories. But Zack (an avid, true Yankee fan) saw the whole scene play out. He gave the guy in the windbreaker a nod of approval. Now that’s cool, however they say it today.