|No more home field advantage?
Aaron pretty much covered the Yankees' home opener inside, outside, up and down yesterday so I'll tread lightly there, but let's scope some of the reaction to the ballpark itself.
The New York Times' William Rhoden thinks the "mystique" is gone:
On its own merits, the new Stadium is a gem. Every effort was made to duplicate and, in many instances extend, the charm of the old Stadium. The signature frieze at the top of the stadium bowl is back, the manually operated auxiliary scoreboard is replicated, and a gap between the bleachers and right field allows us to get a peek at the No. 4 elevated train.
But some crucial things did not make the trip across the street — and they never will. Mystiques are created by championships and championship moments: title fights, football classics and World Series victories. The old mystique is gone. You can argue that the mystique began to fade seasons ago.
The word "mystique" means an aura of mystery, power, and awe that surrounds a person or thing. Inherent in that definition is some sort of history and experience, right? How can you have mystique on day one? More generally, isn't it really the case that, for New York writers at least, Yankee Stadium "mystique" was really a function of the Yankees' won-loss record? Was anyone talking about the "mystique" of Yankee Stadium when Andy Hawkins was on the mound and Steve Balboni was in the lineup?
The New York Post's Joel Sherman has a more valid criticism:
The Yankees wanted to build a museum, a palace, a mall-park. And what they may have ended up with is the House that Mute Built. Incredibly, after all the anticipation and hoopla, the sellout crowd at this grand opening had about the same zeal as grandmothers playing mahjong. Why? The ticket prices mean a lot more corporate patronage in the seats close to the field, which means far fewer diehards near the action, screaming, taunting, making it uncomfortable for the opposition.
I watched a replay of the game on SportsTime Ohio last night. That network tends to mic the field pretty well, and even with that I was amazed at just how quiet the joint was, even before the game turned into a blowout. There was no roar when Sabathia had two strikes on a batter. There was general apathy when Jeter doubled Mark DeRosa off first base. It was like a mausoleum. One can only hope that the VIP-heavy opening day crowd was to blame, but in my experience -- mostly with Ohio State athletics -- massive renovations and new arenas tend to permanently move the loud and obnoxious fans (i.e. the ones that give you the home field advantage) unacceptably far from the action.
Alex Belth of the Bronx Banter blog is taken with the sheer size of the place, but notes that the fans are still pretty close to the field:
The whole structure is not only bigger it is more open too. There are concourses with standing room areas to stop and watch the game. There are plenty of shops and food stands. You can even get a nice pear. There isn't much room for vertigo. The nose bleed seats still feel close to the field. And there is less room between home plate and the seats, by maybe ten, fifteen feet. Behind the plate, fans are certainly closer to the action.
I suppose, then, that it's simply a matter of getting the right people in those seats, because in my view the joint was certainly filled with the wrong people yesterday. Since I knew the outcome of the game as I was watching the replay last night, I was able to focus on things other than the action. Mostly I was fixated on the view of the primo seats just to the third base side of home that were visible during every closeup of a right handed batter. The seats are overly cushy. The waiter service seemed like a slap in the face to peanut vendors and beer guys everywhere. Worst of all, there was a guy in a blue suit and red tie with brown, blow-dried hair sitting in the second or third row of those seats, taking calls on his cell, and never ever seeming to be focusing on the action on the field.
How often that guy sits in those seats, as opposed to the secretaries, drivers, and mailroom guys he gives his tickets to when he's too busy to go to the ballpark, will ultimately be the test of whether New Yankee Stadium is worthy of the New York Yankees.