Deep in enemy territory to appreciate history
Like I said yesterday, today is Derek Jeter’s birthday. He’s 40 and trending on Twitter as I write this. There’s a nice bullet point list on his Road to 40, with video links for many of the highlights (my favorites are “The Flip” and “Mr. November”) and some of the injuries. And this is a really nice tribute from MLB Yankees beat reporter Bryan Hoch. But my favorite is this parody video of Mark Teixeira “interviewing” his teammate Jeter (recorded prior to 2014 season).
So I guess it’s my turn: “Happy Birthday! Here’s to 40+ more!”
A lot of people are writing stories, recalling memories, posting links/memes/vines/etc., and basically following Jeter’s final career season with gusto, analysis, and a bit of nostalgia. There will be time for that on here, but seeing as there’s still more than half the season left to play, and a tight division race already in progress, I’ll save that for when the memories can include this season as memories as well. I mean, there’s no point in being nostalgic in part. And seeing as he’s just 40, there’s still so much left to see from Jeter, at least on the public front — from his foundation, publishing endeavors, and (if he gets his wish) team ownership.
So, in the mean time, we “keep moving forward” (forgive me for stealing a line from a Disney movie). We can absolutely appreciate what has been, as it’s shaped us to be who we are today. We can still appreciate today for what it is — a chance to cherish the moment to its fullest. And we can still dream for the future, with the courage to drive forward into the unknown with passion and hope. It’s one of the reasons I love the Yankees — for who they were, who they are, and who they could be. (By the way, all the answers to that are “champions”.)
Over the weekend, I spent time with my family for our annual family reunion. This year, it was held in Boston. When the location was announced last year, I was instantly torn between two sides of me. First, I am a huge history buff, and Boston is such a historic part of American history. (Mini-confession: I watch historic documentaries almost as much as I watch baseball, and the John Adams mini-series is on regular rotation for the Fourth of July holiday viewing.) But then the baseball side of me screams, “Enemy Territory!” And that makes me laugh. The rivalry is officially ingrained, permeating my psyche with permanent distaste of all things Boston. (Though I had some of the best seafood in the city, not one terrible meal all weekend.)
I battled all weekend with a debate in my head. The Red Sox were out of town, on a West Coast trip (and losing the the A’s 3 of their 4-game series there). And part of me always wanted to visit Fenway because of its part in the history of baseball. I’ve hesitated in wanting to attend a Red Sox-Yankees game in Fenway (they’re great in the Bronx, but that’s home and thus different) because of the reputation of the rivalry, especially in Fenway. So I resolved to settle for a ball park tour.
I’ve toured Yankees Stadium on a non-game day (something I highly encourage all fans, even non-Yankee fans to do). So I have something to compare the experience to going into the Green Monster tour.
The first thing I noticed about Fenway is how small it is in comparison. It’s 102 years old, and it feels like an old stadium. They’ve updated here and there, but it’s obvious there’s been a long battle to keep the history alive (including the 80 year old seats in the upper half of the lower deck) and still keep it a viable, modern-era stadium. They are admittedly the fourth smallest (in seating capacity) stadium in MLB, but that makes it all the easier for them to “sell-out”. The tour was a pretty standard tour — see this part of the stadium, talk about the legends and history, move on to the next part of the stadium, now buy some souvenirs.
I have to admit that my two favorite parts of the Fenway tour were my two favorite parts of the Yankees tour — the Yankees (or visitor’s at Fenway) clubhouse and the press box. (Note: though the Yankees’ museum definitely tops my list on the Yankee Stadium tour, the Fenway museum wasn’t quite up to par, but perhaps it’s my bias seeping through there.) Anyway, the clubhouse and press box are my favorites for really the same reason — it combines the past, present, and future all in one area.
In the clubhouse, you can almost feel, see, and smell (trust me, it wasn’t terrible on a non-game day) the kind of camaraderie from the Yankees who played there, imagining their pep talks, jokes, pranks, hopes, even defeats in that room. In the press box, an eagle-eye view of the field, you can sense the history that was written on those very desks, called in stories, typed with lightning speed to get the news of some of the greatest games ever played out to the anxiously awaiting public.
But I think my biggest thrill was in reveling in the rivalry with Bostonians. There is such a difference in talking baseball with true Red Sox fans than fans of most of the other so-called rivals of the Yankees. We mutually agree that baseball is amazing, we mutually think the other is crazy for thinking their team is better, and we mutually agree to disagree on certain calls made in the history of the games. But, and this is the key here, we also mutually appreciate the other for loving the team we love and the sport we both will follow for our lives. I think my visit to Fenway certainly gave me a broader appreciation for true, honest, pure rivalries like the Red Sox-Yankees (though I will say that the “history” you learn at Fenway deserves to be put in quotes). I hope to catch a game there one day, and I honestly think it will be a Yankees-Red Sox game. We seem to understand each other, even if I still think they’re crazy.