Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Bronx Bombers: Where's Wally?

Whenever watching baseball via the movies we see it through the eyes of Woody Allen or Billy Crystal (the dyspeptics might prefer the p.o.v. of Harvey Keitel's "bad lieutenant"). With Billy or Woody riffing with their wingman - a day at the ballpark looks like a day spent in heaven.

They're equally blue sky in the more serious ball films - starring Kevin Costner that is - "Bull Durham", "For the Love of the Game", and "Field of Dreams". Not to mention the old boy made good films "The Natural" and "The Rookie". You see I seen em all.

Thankfully, Ken Burns and PBS painted in some historical 'color' in his eponymous "Baseball". (We also got the "Civil War" and "Jazz" where I grew up).

And I've read dozens of 'New Yorker', 'GQ', and 'Esquire' profiles over the years... Most recently on the 'world according to Manny'.

So I was trippin to be headed to Yankee Stadium to see Yankees v. red Sox on a July 4 weekend. Bleachers seat A 14, section 53 was my patch of sporting heaven.

Sadly the four guys in KK 13-17 decided that my patch of heaven belonged to them also. Their bleacher wasn't nearly capacious enough for their corpulence. The four of them oozed over the aisles so my knees were pressed against sweaty costumed backs. Two wore Reds and two Bombers strips.

Scanning the crowd they weren't the only man masses around me... so it wan't a matter of bad luck.

So I shoehorned myself in their and waited for the wags to start making ribald and nuanced witticisms to get us all in the mood. Now even I know A-Rod has been schtupping Madonna - so any number of "Yeah, sing 'Like a Prayer' and hit the ball Romeo" could've been gliding off the tongues around me. "Don't look to heaven and ask for a hit you adulterous MoFo - he ain't gonna be listenin!"

That's what happens in the movies... and that's how it goes at the cricket. In every crowd there is a wag and there are a number of ditties - we all learn, and know, and love - to help while away the slow patches and between innings.

Here's an easy one - to the tune of "Camptown Races": "Tampa takes it up the ass doo dah doo dah/Boston takes it twice as far - doo dah, doo dah, day!" (That's a classic birth of American popular culture song by the way - nuthin British about it).

But no. Instead, and nobody seems to have noticed this, there are musical cues for chanting. Four of which are culled from songs by British bands. And of the two others, by Americans, "YMCA" by the Village People is a gay disco anthem. Wags would giggle - I did as two of the tunes by Brits or should I make that gay Persian-Englishman are by Queen and Freddie Mercury. Mmmm, something rotten in the state of American masculinity?

Of course the sclerosis associated with hotdogs and soda and candy - obesity and diabetes - have probably made many of those brains go soft. So there's nobody up to noticing. Or making ribald relief.

And it's visited upon the people - deliberately. At cricket one can take a picnic hamper and a cooler into the park and eat and drink one's leftovers (cricket traditionally takes place on festival weekends to). Ain't no one guzzling fast food.At Yankee stadium even though my bagf did not contain a video camera, glass bottles, alcohol, weapons, yadda yadda yadda I couldn't take it into the ground. No chocolate or an apple for me. In fact i had to leave the stadium and check it in across the street - then blag my way back into the ballpark. Almost didn't make it. Saved by my foreigner's accent.

So at the commencement of the 8th innings when the announcer asked us to all stand and observe a minute's silence in support of "American service men and women serving overseas and making sacrifices for their country" and then join Kate Smith for the singing of "God Bless America" I was outta there in a white rage.

Where I come from national anthems and songs were done away with in the late-1960s when the world was delivered to post-colonial political consciousness. They are sung at the commencement of international sports fixtures - played between nations. (ie Japan v. Italy). Not at anything wholly domestic.

Sclerotics all. No troops invading countries overseas. No bag checks. No requirement - that is a choice to eat the apple and the chocolate - to guzzle that junk food.

Funny, the other country in the world where one gets so strenuously searched is Russia. Ironic, anybody?

The final irony of the day - while I was seething. Heading back to 161st Street Station and the 4 train, I finally saw black people.

I mean black people who weren't indentured to be at the game. They were in they stadium serving hotdogs, and cracker jacks, and dairy maid something or others, and Cokes but I couldn't see a single person in the crowd. Not amongst the cops neither. (Note to myself, must try and spot a black cop).

And so my day of livin a slice of the American Dream ended on the 4 train. My Yankees cap pushed back on my head... bought at the concession before I headed into the stadium as a momento of the afternoon that was about to unfold in proximity to heaven.

I wonder - does one get arrested for burning one's Yankees cap? Is there a memorabilia amendment? Guess I'd better google.

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