When I was small, I didn't understand the point of the Yankees. It wasn't that I disliked them, but that they were irrelevant, the team of suburbs to the north and parts of the city that to me may as well have been. Even in deep Queens there were a few Yankees fans, usually Italians whose families raised them to think of Joe DiMaggio the way Catholics were raised to think of John F. Kennedy.* Those kids would taunt the rest of us odd moments. You'd be playing asses-up, dealing the ball in your best Dwight Gooden motion, when some kid would let on that two rings were nice enough and nothing to be ashamed of, but certainly not as nice as twenty-two, as if he'd been there in the stands when each of them was won. But mostly this didn't seem to have anything to do with anything. They may as well have been Kansas City Royals fans.
It wasn't until I was 22 that I understood the Yankees at all. My friend P. and I had upper deck seats for the Stadium, and two Snapple bottles full of liquor. We drank and watched the game and talked, convincing ourselves that we were much above everything that was going on around us: New York would never again be something it had stopped being around the time we were born; baseball had changed, with the money; capital had failed us; the electronic advertisements, greasy brokers on cell phones, cheap plastic, and loud music were an indictment; everything was at second hand and a great remove; the world was infinitely mediated and the city a sad, lonely and disfigured place in which great things were no longer possible; etc.
The score ran up early enough, and it was chilly enough, that the stands began to empty early, so we made out way down to field level, well toasted, and then worked our way from seat to seat until we were a row back of the home dugout. There was the field in total clarity: still and quiet, steam rising off the grass, the lights a half mile high, and Mike Mussina on the mound, curling up into his motion, in total control of events. At that moment it may as well have been 1946, 1977, or whatever moment P. and I had just spent so much time convincing ourselves we wished it was. The game seemed further away than it had seemed in the nosebleeds, but very much more peaceful, and at that exact moment neither Mike Mussina or all the ambitious people in the park seemed at all to inhabit a different city than I did, but just to be different parts of one raging engineparts with which I may not have had much in common, but parts toward which it was somewhere between absurd and obscene to feel something just past distrust and shading toward resentment.
That, without question, is the one lasting memory I'll have of the Stadium, the one religious experience I've ever had at a ballpark. If there's another, it will be of this year's All-Star Game. Earlier that day, I'd had an argument with my friend H. We were talking politics; I was staked to a claim that by the election the banking system would be effectively nationalized because a massive bank run would expose all the toxic waste on the books once and for all and render them all insolvent, which would help the Democrats, and he was calling me hysterical and pointing out that even if this happened it would help the Republicans anyway.** So I'd thinking a lot about how fragile American power is when, with dozens of Hall of Famers and George Steinbrenner on the field, Sheryl Crow hit the high note in the national anthem and a B-2 nuclear bomber flew overhead, straight from its base in the Missouri heartland, completely unseen and silent enough to physically shake the Stadium in its wake, to the deafening roar of tens of thousands of people. This was the exact moment when I knew we were all fucked.
*(My great-grandmother had three framed photos in her foyer: Martin Luther King Jr., the Pope, and JFK.)