Writing a daily blog can do strange things to you. One of the more dangerous is that it strengthens the propensity (already outsized in most bloggers) to openly speak your mind.
This was brought to my attention last night when I was jammed on the Number 4 train heading for Game 1 of the World Series. The guy squeezed next to me had a slightly pudgy face that was decorated by half-there facial hair (some form of beard or goatee, probably intended to better define his face shape.)
He noticed, in the mass of people clumped around the subway pole, a tall pale guy, whom he recognized. The tall guy held the hand, knotted around the pole, of a young woman who looked up at him with eyes thick with make-up, shiny with adoration. (It turned out these two had only been married for a month.) But I digress.
The pudgy guy, clearly hoping to impress the tall guy, told him about that big things had been happening in his life. He’d gotten married the previous year; his business, four years old, was doing great; he was employing his brother; his wife was expecting.
After asking the tall guy where he lived, he revealed that he’d “closed” on a place in mid-town Manhattan last week.
Finding out that the couple had just married, he asked the tall guy where they’d honeymooned. “Nice,” he said appraisingly.
They talked of a mutual friend who was also doing great, the pudgy guy said. This friend had had a student loan business which he sold for $150 million dollars last year, then, “two weeks later,” the pudgy guy went on, “the government changed the regulations for, you know, student loans, and the place literally closed its doors. Busted.” He grinned widely.
(For government “changing regulations”, the blogger in me thinks “cracked down on corrupt business practices.”)
“Beautiful,” a third guy said. I don’t know if this third guy, young, short, bristly, was a stranger or friend. It’s hard when everyone is cheek by jowl, arm by guy, to know who’s with whom.
Who was going to the Yankees’ game and who was just headed up to the Bronx was a bit clearer. For example, a very slight Hispanic girl, just opposite me, who had worried eyes, a worried complexion, a small stud below her lower lip, and a large rumpled SAT prep book under one arm, looked like she was probably not going to the game. (In fact, she got off in the Bronx, but before the stadium.)
“Well, you must be doing okay,” the pudgy guy said to the tall guy, “if you can buy Yankees tickets.” He rubbed middle finger to thumb, moola-style. (He had season tickets himself.)
(I should note here–yes, to make myself look virtuous–that my ticket, the most expensive single ticket, other than for a flight, that I’ve ever held in my hand, was given to me.)
Trying, I think, to change the subject, the tall guy at the pole asked the pudgy guy when his baby was due. The pudgy guy pulled out a cell phone and directed it to an image of the baby’s sonogram, which he pressed across multiple limbs to his friend’s face.
This might have been a touching gesture. But he kept saying, “you can see he’s a boy, right? I mean you can’t miss it, right?”
The tall guy tried to say something about how amazing it was that the pudgy guy had a sonogram on his cell, but the pudgy guy wouldn’t let go of the fetus’s penis. “Look at the size of that. You know what that is right? I mean, how can you not see it?”
The tall guy said that he knew what it was. “You’re happy then, with the baby coming?”
“Oh yeah, sure. I’m just so glad it’s not a girl. I’d just hate to have a girl.”
The blogger in me could suddenly no longer control myself. “I think you’re horrible for not wanting a girl,” I said loudly. “And I think your friend who made the 150 million for selling his worthless company was horrible too.”
As silence descended over the car, I was glad I had not added anything about the guy’s obsessing over the size of his son-to-be”s genitalia.
No one looked at me, except the third guy, who sneered. “No, it wasn’t horrible. I don’t want girls either. And what that guy did was great. That’s what capitalism is all about. That’s what the Yankees are all about too, that’s why we’re all here. To beat these guys from the start.”
I, thought about the incident repeatedly during the game. It was a game in which one had a lot of time to think about things (such as, will anyone ever hit one of Cliff Lee’s pitches?)
I really do like the Yankees. Despite their ridiculous pay scale. But when you go to the new stadium, when you sit in a large crowd many of whom have paid hundreds of dollars for this ticket (and have a season of them) , beneath the bright lights, in the freezing cold, surrounded by $10 special hot chocolate cups, $8 beers, and small private suites which have crowded full bars, big TVs and a real Las Vegas feel, you become conscious of a few things which are both obvious and, to me, unpleasant; (i) sports is a big, greedy, business; (ii) the players are highly-paid, highly-skilled entertainers, and (iii) many fans, particularly now that the prices have gotten so high, are demanding consumers, some of whom look to the highly-paid, highly-skilled players to act out their own (slightly impotent) macho instincts.
You can’t blame the players for the business aspect, and you really can’t blame them for taking advantage of the big bucks. Many of them grew up in poor or working class families and have worked incredibly hard to hone their skills. (Mariano Rivera apparently practiced pitching rocks as a child.) In fact, it’s amazing to me that so many players are so genuinely devoted to the game, so genuinely excited by their victories, so seemingly tolerant of their team members.
You can’t blame the fans (or at least some of them) for acting like consumers, getting irritated not just when their team is losing, but because the show is not up to the high admission price.
But because the amounts of money involved are so large, something has gotten very out of whack. And strangely enough, it almost makes the TV experience feel like the truer sport experience, simply because the audience there hasn’t paid hundreds of dollars for its seat and doesn’t have to look at signs that say things like “Make Noise,” and “Win It For the Boss” (meaning George Steinbrenner.)
The game can also be watched on TV even by those folks getting off in the Bronx, before the stadium is reached.