Friday, April 14, 2006

Grouchy Friday

All right. After some unnecessary Home Opener excitement, the Yanks swept the Royals, and headed out of town. Picked a good time, too, because they skipped out to the Midwest just as some Spring showers hit the area. Yesterday was a perfect baseball day. Today was a good day to stay indoors.

Despite the victories over the Missourians, I find myself in a testy mood. Part of it was Randy Johnson leaving the game after five yesterday--the words "shoulder stiffness" form a profanity in my household, even if the brain trust doesn't seem too concerned.

Another part of it was the greeting I got this morning, when I picked up the newspaper. La Chiquita subscribes to the New York Times, so most mornings on my way out the door, I stop in our vestibule, pick the sports section out of the newspaper, and leave the rest of it there for her to pick up when she comes downstairs.

This morning, I spotted a Yankee story on the front page of the Metro section, so I grabbed that, as well. I should have known better. The story was entitled "Yankee Fans Only a Brewer Could Love." I really didn't know what to expect--a story about a microbrewery in the Bronx?

Um, no. Here's how the story begins:
FOR the planned new Yankee Stadium, attention has focused mostly on concerns like gobbled-up parkland, parking garages, a Metro-North station and team spending in the Bronx. One matter has not been raised, not in public anyway, but it does seem worth mentioning.

It is called jail. How many holding cells will the new ballpark have to contain the hopelessly oafish fans who will inevitably be arrested through the course of the baseball season?
So I wonder, what this all about? Did some incident occur at the stadium during the homestand? No. What happened is that last October, the author of the story, Clyde Haberman, wrote a piece entitled "Throw Out the Bums...In the Stands." (To give you an idea of the author's balanced take, here's what can be seen of the article, from outside the Times Select iron curtain: "NOW that their season is over, the New York Yankees are likely to shop for new players over the winter, and may even (gasp!) seek a new manager to take over from the estimable Joseph Paul Torre. What they really should look for are new fans.") Turns out that Haberman's fan-baiting from last year spawned some email--presumably also from last year--which the author thought would be good for an easy column, plus or minus a month from Opening Day.

Now, Haberman's a hack. Even before he decided to talk trash about Yankee fans, I had no patience for his "stylings," which are a lot like a those of a comedy club burnout whose act is so weak, he spends all his time insulting the audience to make up for it.

Back to the article, which goes on to lambaste Yankee fans--and, save for a one-off mention of Fenway, only Yankee fans--for their "loutish" behavior. With no recent incidents for Haberman to talk about, obviously he'd give us some facts--y'know, statistics about fan arrests, or something of that sort--to back up his argument, right?

Wrong again. After all, who needs facts when you can simply quote anecdotal evidence from the self-declared smartest people in the world, the Newspaper of Record's readers?
Overwhelmingly, readers who weighed in agreed that the Yankees, their security guards and the New York Police Department could all be doing more to rein in the unpleasant number of fans who believe that ballgames are where you go to get royally plastered, scream obscenities, pick fights and yell at women to take their tops off.

"I have traveled with my kids to Baltimore, Boston, Shea, both fields in Chicago and San Francisco, and we go to baseball games frequently," wrote Arthur Lowenstein, a lawyer who lives in Hastings-on-Hudson. "In my experience, there is no park anywhere that is as bad as Yankee Stadium in terms of safety and security."

Now, this Mr. Lowenstein is such a ballpark security expert, that one of the exemplars of stadium security he chooses--U.S. Cellular Field--has twice in the last four years been the scene of fans trying to beat up on-field personnel. Don't remember that happening at Yankee Stadium. But then again, maybe Mr. Lowenstein felt he and his children were safe in Chicago, since, after all, they were in the stands, and not on the field.

Anyway, my initial reaction to Haberman's article was one which he would probably use as an example of Yankee fans' "lack of civility." I believe it's a little something the vice-president said to a member of congress last year. Then, when I was a bit calmer, I mused as to the sheer number of Yankee fans who must have, at some point, taken liberties with his mom to give him such a jaundiced and prejudicial view of the Pinstriped Faithful, as a whole.

But seriously, whenever a columnist argues about the need for "civility" at any sports arena, it's a fixed ballgame. It calls on anyone disagreeing with the columnist's view to argue against civility, and inspires some less-than-objective comments in agreement (for example a "New Jersey restauranteur" quoted in the article seems to mind Yankee fans, as a concept, more than he decries any specific behavior of theirs).

Yes, the Stadium can be a tough place to take kids. The fans are loud, often mean, and sometimes drunk. There are, however, a few things you can do about it:

Know Where You're Sitting: If you want to keep your kids (or even your adults) away from drunken "loutish" behavior, there are alcohol-prohibited areas in the Stadium. Take advantage of them. If you see someone drinking in a section where they shouldn't get security--which is plentiful at the Stadium, and much more cooperative than they were in the late 80's or early 90's, when Stadium security actually was horrible.

Know Who They're Playing
: Matchups against the Mets and Red Sox are not family-friendly. Then again, neither are Dodgers-Giants games. At least I've never heard of anyone getting shot after a Yanks/Sox or Mets game, which is more than we can say for Giants/Dodgers.

Leave the Chip on Your Shoulder at the Door
: Even in Yankee Stadium, courtesy begets courtesy. A lot of visitors and commuters to New York seem to think that as far as politeness goes, New York City is the Wild West. Folks who are devoted to "please" and "thank you" in their home communities cast that off when they get to the Big Apple. Instead, they choose to drop f-bombs on anyone and everyone who gets in their way, because "that's the way things are
done here." When these folks enter Yankee Stadium, they magnify that attitude by a factor of fifty.

If you're cheering for the visiting team at any arena, be smart. Have a sense of humor when your team is down, and don't gloat too much when your team's ahead. Approach potential confrontations from the point of view of someone who is extremely outnumbered.

I'm not saying this as anything profound. It's common sense, and nothing that should be too difficult if you're actually a devotee of "civility." If your aims are somewhat less lofty--say, wanting to put "entitled" Yankee fans in their place--obviously, you should expect to meet some hostility in return.

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