There was something here, where the parking lot is, to the west of Citifield. I’m looking at it as I’m writing these words. It really is there. I see it. But if you read these words at any time in the future that begins three months from now, it is no longer there. You know what it was. You may remember it, and you will hear about it for a long time. The last people to remember Shea stadium will live into the twenty-second century.
This is what happens. Everyone knows this. But the reason Citifield looks like a stadium that was demolished in 1960 shows you that people can’t accept this. I can’t accept this, which is a main reason I’m writing a book about it. You know what I’m talking about. Stuff is there and then it isn’t. And no, it doesn’t live on in your memory. Your memories may be your most prized possessions, but nothing lives in them.
Really big things that get torn down have a particular grandeur. If they can be gone, everything can be gone. Being gone is no big deal. Shea was very big, much bigger than Citifield. Trust me. I am looking at them both, standing side by side. Shea is immense and Citifield looks little beside it. I’m looking at living proof that the world was bigger in the past. I remember how big everything used to be. I remember a parade on Fifth Avenue in the Fifties and how immense the buildings were. I remember the original Penn station and the great ocean liners lined up at the docks on the West Side. I remember dirigibles in the sky. Penn Station and the ocean liners and the dirigibles are gone too. The big buildings are still there but they don’t seem as big. Everything was bigger in the past. This is a very old human sentiment, and to some degree, it is literally true. I’m looking at proof.
Why was Shea so big? Because the people who built it thought that that many people might want to come to it. The people who are building Citifield know that that many people will want to come to Citifield, but they won’t always come and so they don’t feel a need to be ready and hopeful that everyone will arrive. More money will be made from selling seats in the smaller stadium because there won’t be seats for everyone who will want to come.
I am beginning to feel more and more angry about this. I am not just sentimentally loyal to my old friend. I am making a real effort to separate my anger from my sentiment. They are separate issues. I accept the death of Shea. I know why it is being torn down. For all that it contains my beautiful memories, it is old and poorly designed. Still, to build something that has 13,000 fewer seats is a cynical calculation. I’m sorry. I think that the purpose of baseball, and of all of human culture, is to enrich everyone’s life. It is not to make a small number of rich people richer than they already are. There are so many of us and so few of them. Why do they get to call the shots about something that affects us all? Why couldn’t we have had a vote about the capacity of the new stadium? Who set things up in this way and why does everyone just shrug now and call it rational?
I do and I don’t want to sound like an old lefty. When I make my existential choice to love baseball, I resolve to forgive it many things from the start. But if I am to forgive, I don’t want people taunting me as if they’ve gotten away with something because I’m a stupid fool who just wants to have his pleasures.
When I go to the Citifield site, and read about the Citifield price structure and season ticket policies, I feel taunted. I feel taunted and offended by all the Excelsior, Empire, Sterling, climate-controlled sports and entertainment destination crap (I can only afford to sit in the Promenade Level. Why do they call it that? Promenade means to walk around. They are going to have seats up there, aren’t they?). I feel taunted and offended by the prices. Who gave these people the right to charge that much for something that now sells for half that amount? Who determined that they could limit the supply of seats to increase demand, to increase the price and their profits? Why should they have that profit? Why can’t 55,000 people enjoy the sublimity of a playoff game any more? Is there really no more room for them? Who determined this? Who allowed this to happen?
There are plenty of moments now when I feel that I am at a breaking point. I want to mourn the dear old stadium in a decorous way. I want to get all lyrical about the passing of time and the disappearance of big and beloved things. I don’t want the destruction of Shea to symbolize something meaner than that. I don’t want to have to be angry.