Every passionate baseball fan either loves the Yankees or hates the Yankees. There is no middle ground. I hate them. But, like most passionate baseball fans that hate the Yankees, I love hating them. I do not wish ill will (at least away from the game) on Derek Jeter, the Steinbrenners, anyone, or anything else that makes the Yankees the Yankees. It would not make sense for me to. I love hating them too much to want any of it to go away, or change in any way.
That is why Yankee lovers and haters alike have to be sad to see Yankee stadium go. It will always be part of what made the Yankees the Yankees. It was the home to so many legendary moments, teams, and players. When I think of the place, I see Josh Hamilton's home run derby barrage and Curt Schilling's bloody sock. I remember how my heart raged when Aaron Boone sent a Tim Wakefield knuckleball into the standing, sending the Yankees to yet another World Series. I also remember how my heart sunk when Jim Leyritz pushed the '95 M's to the brink of elimination in a gut-wrenching 15-inning marathon. These are the Yankee Stadium moments I vividly remember, and they almost get lost in the crowd of Yankee Stadium memories. More than anything else, that speaks to the overwhelming nature of Yankee Stadium, the very ovewhelming nature that is the source of Yankee Stadium's mystique.
I hated Yankee Stadium. I hated the mystique, especially in the playoffs. Maybe I was jealous, maybe I found it unfair. I have never stopped to think why I hated the mystique so much. What matters is that I hated it, and I loved hating it. Hating the mystique made every Yankee Stadium game so much more interesting and memorable.
I had to watch the last game in Yankee Stadium. Since I hate the Yankees, I hoped that they would lose. Yankee Stadium is defined so much by all the great Yankee triumphs, so it would have been so precious for its last memory to be of failure. Plus, a loss would have mathematically eliminated the Yankees from playoff contention, making a loss even sweeter. How ironic would it have been if the Yankees had been knocked out of playoff contention in their final game at Yankee Stadium? As a Yankee hater, I could not think of a better ending.
The game started well enough, and my excitement grew. Then, the Yankees came back with a homer from Johnny Damon that just cleared the short right field porch. Even though Johnny is on my fantasy team, I was mad. It was a cheap home run, the kind of fly ball that would have been an out in every other stadium. Once again, the Yankees were taking control of a game thanks to the stupid layout of Yankee Stadium. I was mad and frustrated. Making matters worse, Andy Pettitte settled down and Jose Molina hit a homer to extend the lead. What business did Jose Molina have hitting a big home run? It is just like the Yankees in Yankee Stadium to get unlikely contributions at crucial times. It is not fair at all. Finally, Mariano Rivera came out in the ninth and sucked the final remaining life out of the Orioles, ending their misery and mine.
Tonight felt like such a typical Yankees game. I wanted them to lose, got my hopes up, and then players stepped up and did unlikely things to give New York the lead. My smiling lips quickly gave way to furrowed brows, and inevitable disappointment set in as Rivera made his final trek to the hallowed Yankee Stadium mound. I could not help but think of all the times over the years that I was convinced Rivera was due to fail as he took that mound, and how every time he let me down by not letting down the Yankees.
Everything about Yankee Stadium's last game, from the ceremonies to the game itself, reminded me why I hate the Yankees so much. The history, the tradition, the narcissism, the entitlement, the winning - it was all there. My heart sank as Rivera buzzed through the Orioles with his cutter, and I glared as Jeter gushed about how great Yankee fans are.
At the risk of sounding like a masochist, I would not have wanted it any other way either. It would not have felt quite right if I had not been frustrated, disappointed, or perturbed at any point of Yankee Stadium's final game. I love hating the Yankees, and it was nice that everything felt like business as usual in Yankee Stadium's final game.
Yankee Stadium needed to be replaced. It was out of date. The new Yankee Stadium will be nicer in almost every way imaginable, from fan amenities to architectural detail. It looks like an ideal blend between the past and present (though at an exorbitant price, if you agree with Dennis Kucinich). Still, change means that things will be different. For the sake of Yankee haters and lovers alike, I hope things do not change that much.