Last night, I went to the Yankee game (3-2, Yankees beat the Rangers). I’m not a big sports fan, but I am a nominal Yankees fan – as a kid, I was a big fan of the Munson – Chambliss – Randolph – Dent – Nettles – Jackson – White – Piniella – Guidry -Hunter – et al. Yankees. Sure, that was 30-some-odd years ago. But that was baseball.
I stopped paying attention to baseball somewhere around the second players’ strike – not for naive reasons – I always knew it was a business – but for more jaded ones. The business used to be run by sentimental men; in the 80s and 90s, sentiment disappeared from the game, and the players and the owners conspired to make it be less and less compelling as a narrative.
Symptoms of this include all the new stadiums (stadia – I know), the growth in the number of teams, the increased home runs, growing ERAs, etc. The sport is a different sport than the one I grew up watching. I’m not being nostalgic or maudlin – I’m just saying, it’s different – and I don’t particularly appreciate the differences. Others do – the game has been redesigned for them.
Last night, as we sat in some of the best seats in the house (I was in the box of a corporation that has season tickets), I was struck by the baseball ignorance not just of me (I didn’t even know who the Yankees were playing until the game started) but of everyone around me (I heard people say things that revealed ignorance not just of the season, but of the rules of the game). How did it come to be that attendees of games – as a result of inflated ticket and concession prices (beers are $11 at Yankee Stadium) – aren’t the people who actually follow the game?
In the 80s and 90s, I lamented that George Steinbrenner didn’t make the team a more welcoming team for Dominican fans. Now, I wonder at the decision to make the team unwelcoming to non-jingoists. (The concession stands don’t sell “French Fries” – they sell “American Fries.” Somewhere along the line, it became mandatory to stand in the seventh inning and sing “God Bless America,” a horrific song if ever there was one, and, inexplicably, to remove one’s hat if one’s wearing one and place one’s hand on one’s heart – I think people only did this for the national anthem before 2001.) I know that, to a certain extent, this is true of baseball in general, and all sports, in the years since 2001. As a New Yorker, someone who knew people who died in the World Trade Center, whose home smelled for weeks after the attack of burning construction debris, and who lived the PTSD that every New Yorker did, I’m hostile to the uses to which our city’s attack, our nation’s attack, have been put. I don’t want this to be a political rant, but I do feel alienated by and hostile to the extent to which nationalism has become such a prominent feature of even mere attendance of a game.
Anyway – none of this is what I meant to write about. I meant to write about two amusing conversations I had with the three friends with whom I attended the game. We’re old friends. The oldest friendships among us date back 30 years or more; the most recent, on the order of 20. We’re not the closest of friends, but our friendships have depth. And our conversations are entertaining. I’m the only one of the four of us who leads a dissolute life of the type I write about here. One of the other three knows many of the details of the current configuration of my life, marriage. Two of the other three know my story. The third, the one with whom I’m least close, is the most conventional. (He’s the one who doesn’t live in the city, but moved to the suburbs.) In the third inning (there had been a 2-hour rain delay, so we were well lubricated by the eighteenth out), he told me a tale of an abortive fling he hadn’t had. “I choked,” he confessed. “I’m not sure I’d call that ‘choking,'” I said, defending his integrity and monogamy. “Dude,” he said. “I choked.” He paused. “Ten years, one pussy.” He seemed truly to be mourning.
The second conversation began before the game began, and continued well into the 8th inning. “I have some ideas,” one of the guys offered up, as we huddled under an umbrella. “Don’t you think there should be strip clubs at ball games? And – and – don’t you think that they could be improved by…” and he offered a number of construction and design elements that I confess, I tuned out pretty quickly. He’s a contractor – I’m not. Some of his design elements seemed to be more like those one might find in a sex party or a kink event – wall-mounted bondage gear, etc. But basically, he seemed to be offering a critique of the general tackiness of strip clubs.
I had a different counter: “I want strip clubs to look more like real life,” I said. “Women wearing street clothes, drinking at the bar. The only difference is, they approach you, and they respond well when you approach them.” The guys liked this idea. One – a shrink – observed (correctly, if obviously) that this medicates my fear of the unavailability of women. All three of the others immediately were off and running with “theme rooms” in such a club. There could be a classroom – complete with both teachers and students. A subway. Trains. We saved Amtrak with this idea.
It was a fun way to pass the breaks between the action.
What do you think? How would you improve strip clubs to make them more appealing? (Straight ladies, this goes to you too, both with regard to conventional strip clubs and all-male revues.)