Can A Stadium Buy Happiness?
I am breathing a sigh of delight every time I think about it. Baseball season has started.
I have been a baseball fan since the first time I dug my sneakers into the dirt around first base so many years ago. I remember the thrill of standing out there, smacking my glove and waiting for the throw from the shortstop to zip my way. And then standing at the plate, a fastball coming right down the middle and knowing I just had to swing fast and accurate enough if I wanted to see it go flying into the blue summer sky.
I am now more of a spectator of the game than a player, though every now and then I lace up my cleats and run out onto the field for a game of softball. And that is all right; I love watching the game. I love watching the players grind through one hundred and sixty-two games a year, accumulating stats like trees accumulate leaves. Baseball is a little bit of drama and excitement everyday for six months, a little bit like a soap opera for men. Nothing beats a great pennant race and the glory days of September when heroes are made every night and nothing seems to matter but the roar of the crowd and the whack of the ball hitting the glove.
That is perhaps why I am angry when sportswriters have suggested that the Yankees, my favorite team, are trying to buy happiness by trying to buy a championship and canoodle the fans with a ostentatious stadium. It takes away from my joy.
The Yankees have had quite an off season, from all the money they have spent on free agents, to Alex Rodriguez’s steroid admission and injury, to all of last year’s injured stars returning, to the opening of the new Yankee stadium. They have the highest payroll in baseball and haven’t won a World Series in eight years. For the Yankees, that is a long time and spurred their lavish money spending this off season, even in light of economic woes, as they brought in some of the best players in the game. Combined with the price of some seats at the new stadium that sell for as much as $2,500 a game, I can see where their sentiment comes from. But it really takes away from the players.
The last time I checked, the ball players still have to take the field every day for a hundred and sixty-two games. They have to leave their families behind and at least get along with teammates they might not really care for. They have to sleep in hotel beds, which might sound appealing, but ask any traveler and they will tell you a hotel bed can get tiresome after a few nights. The ballplayers have to ride buses and airplanes almost as often as flight stewardesses. This is life for a baseball player managing this lifestyle while trying to play a game they love and treat it like a job at the same time can be tough. And winning ballgames is not just about being good, it is about doing the little things everyday more than the rest of the players in the league are doing it for their team. There are perks of course, and maybe a lot for being Yankee, but isn’t that what the Yankees are thinking about when they build a stadium that has every creature comfort a player could want?
That is not all. They built an incredible stadium, not just because they can, or for their players, but because they wanted a visit to Yankee stadium to be different and better than a visit to any other stadium. They wanted kids to remember that visit to the stadium years later, when they took their own kids to the stadium. They wanted the seats and the views and the amenities to wow everyone that visited just like a boy wants to wow his girlfriend on their first few dates as he is tries to win her heart.
The Yankees have always spent money, but isn’t that what it is there for. They don’t take the money and line their pockets like some greedy stock brokers and insurance company executives. They pour the money back into the team and the product they put out on the field for you and me to enjoy. And we do enjoy it. They create memories that last most of us a lifetime, which is far more special than a cold bank vault full of money.
Are the Yankees trying to buy happiness? Maybe they are in a sense, but not any more than you or I who try and buy ourselves the best clothes we can afford and nice dinners, and nicer cars, and a comfortable house filled with the things that will please our families. They just do it on a grander scale and so we take notice and sportswriters take notice. We do it for the joy we will have when we see our daughter walk down the stairs in her prom dress or for the times we can play catch with our sons in the backyard beneath that great big oak. The Yankees do it for the chance at hoisting the World Series trophy and cracking those champagne bottles. The money is just a vehicle to help get to that point. But I am willing to bet that the money it took to get there will be the last thing on their minds.
© Seth Crossman