Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The House that Ruth Built

It has taken me a while to blog about the main reason we went to New York, because it is one of those experiences that most people wont really appreciate or understand how great an opportunity it was. I don't want to come off as bragging or anything like that, so don't take it that way. To better understand how lucky we were, read this Sports Illustrated article from a few weeks ago. I am not even a Yankees fan and I think it was one of the best article ever written by SI.

On Saturday, September 20, we boarded the D train uptown to the Bronx. We had been out late the night before, but the anticipation of the days events fought off the heavy eyelids. It was a quick 20 minute ride to 161st street. We got off the train and headed for the stairs back to the street. My first look at her was not what I imagined. Here stood a big concrete bowl, showing every one of her 85 years. I expected the corner made famous on Seinfeld! Across the street was the new, chique replacement. With "Yankee Stadium" scripted in gold and a roman architecture facade, the new girl was much better looking, but we weren't here for her. Under the tracks of the 4 train, which runs almost right through center field, stood all the vendors. White and blue pinstripes could be seen in dozens of storefronts. Even though the first pitch was 3+ hours away, people were already lined up outside of her. We didn't wake up early to stand in line, that's not how we roll. At dinner the night before Jeremy Guthrie offered to introduce us to Yankee Stadium. We met up with him and headed around the concrete bowl, headed for the players tunnel. I was nervous, like what you feel before a first date. There was one huge difference; she is a celebrity, not Jessica Simpson, but Anne Hathaway, a girl with looks and substance.

We arrived at the entrance, it felt like an out-of-body experience. My first time with her, her last time hosting someone under the afternoon sun. With all that has happened inside her walls, she will never remember me, but I will remember that first glimpse of the blue seats and green grass for a long time. There I was, among 20 or so people, about to experience something 10 million New Yorkers would give up their first born to experience. We stopped and took a picture from behind home plate, the perfectly manicured grass sparkling in the background. I would have been happy to leave then, but our date was just getting started...

She led me down the aisles, where I noticed there was a metal bar going through the middle of each section which was odd, through the box seats and onto the field. She was letting me on the field on our first date! I did not know how to react...should I walk over to the dugout, reach down and touch the grass, or just continue to stand there with my chin hanging down? I walked down into the visitors dugout, think of all the legends that have sat there! I didn't care about her past relationships, she was mine for now.

Again, we took pictures in the dugout and standing right outside of it. Then, another surprise. Jeremy had brought a few plastic bags for us to get some infield dirt. I walked across the grass to third base. Rather timidly, I reached down and let the soil run through my fingers. How could she have such a unique gift for me? More pictures were taken around third base, then we headed to left field, where I would really get to know her past flings.

In Monument Park, I found out this girl has a bit of stalker in her. Out here between the left field fence and the visitors bullpen is where she keeps Shrines to her exes that meant a lot to her. Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle; legends who bowed down to my date. She commemorates big events that she has hosted, like Papal Visits and other people who have been influential in who she has become. Not being a Yankee fan, this was the part of our date that meant the least to her, but I was excited that she was willing to open up to me about these things so close to her. It was also in left field where we were able to walk up to the visitors bullpen and look down into the home bullpen.

Again, it struck me how many greats had spent time with her here on these mounds. Before ending the first part of our day together, she let us walk out into left field. My dad tried to impress her by saying he could make a home run robbing catch over the wall, but she saw right through him. After 85 years, she has a pretty good eye for what she wants.

That was it for our private time. We walked back out through the players tunnel, and who happened to be walking in at that same time but Derek Jeter. He is one of the guys she keeps going back to; unable to let go, even when he batting average dips under .250. He will probably end up in Monument Park one day...jerk.

A few hours later, we returned, this time to take in the final game Yankee Stadium will host on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. It was a perfect day, I didn't expect anything less. We made our way back inside, this time with the street folk :), and found our seats. We were at the top of the lowest deck, right behind home plate. Best of all, we were in the shade.

It was different being with her when there were another 55,000 people there. It actually added to the magic. We witnessed a great game, the last walk-off victory at Yankee Stadium. During the 7th inning stretch, she asked us to sing "God Bless America" with her before "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." This tradition started after 9/11, I hope it lives on in the new place. Once the final run crossed the plate, Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" played over the loudspeakers at least ten times. Once everyone cleared out, I had a little bit more personal time with her. She had me come back down the front row box seats, where I witnessed something I never expected. The Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, and their center fielder, Johnny Damon, brought their kids out to hit and pitch. 5 or 6 kids were running the bases and fielding grounders on this piece of history. That is something I will never forget. After a few minutes, she told me that our date needed to end.

She apologized for how much her age was showing, but it was hardly noticeable through all the history oozing out of each crack. We said our goodbyes, and made our way back out to 161st.

They say she has ghosts living inside of her. I don't know if that is true, but if they aren't living there, she at least lets them rent on occasion. I would have been happy to fly out Saturday morning for this date, then fly right back home afterwards. Lucky for me, I was able to experience more of New York, but this date with Yankee Stadium was far and away the highlight of my trip.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Great Speeches in History

Last week I found a great podcast called Great Speeches in History. Obviously, what they are is self-explanatory. I downloaded a few for the trip to NY, listening to them has caused me to reflect. I got through Ronald Reagan's "Tear Down this Wall", Winston Churchill's First Speech as Prime Minister, Malcolm X's "The Ballot or the Bullet" and JFK's democratic nomination speech. I had heard parts of all these before, but it was so interesting to hear them all in their entirety. All day I have been thinking about two things: 1. Why is it that all of these are more than 20 years old? and 2. What would be something could cause such a speech to happen today? As to the first question, I could not think of an answer, but I have spent a lot of time thinking about the second question and have come up with an answer of my own that I would like to share.

One of the main themes of all the speeches was the unification of people for the greater good. I loved how Malcolm X talked about how we let religion seep into too many conversations/debates, when really there are many things that effect our daily lives no matter what religion we are. He also acknowledged his enemies and wasn't afraid to confront their opposing views without attacking them. Ronald Reagan gave a stirring speech to the people of Berlin, pointing out that the very people protesting his presence there would not be able to protest if they got their way. He never spoke bad about the communist people, just about the regime that forced them to live that different lifestyle. Even though I have very little respect and no admiration for JFK, his acceptance speech had nothing of the jabs and twisting of words that accompanies political speeches today.

Barack Obama has been hailed by many as a great orator, which he very much is. Malcolm X was not very eloquent, stumbling over his words and repeating simple phrases over and over, but he spoke from his heart. There is a simple way to explain why these great speeches have survived the test of time, compared to the rhetoric filled "word vomit" we hear all to often; these men were not presenting ideas, but ideals. They all understood we live in a world where there will always be hate and discord, but their understanding of opposition in all things allowed them to present the other side of hate and discord. Malcolm X spoke about building up the economy of black communities, Reagan spoke about reuniting a continent, Churchill expressed his true faith that good would overcome evil and JFK absorbed the religious bigotry to unite his party. None of them said things like, "living in a perfect world" or "a world without hate." They all expressed well thought out plans and desires to make the world better. I was so impressed by some of the things Malcolm X said about differences between religion. He is so right, many times we allow differences in religion cloud the similarities that exist between two people.

After putting these thoughts together, I tried to answer my second question from above; What would be something could cause such a speech to happen today? What Malcolm X spoke about regarding religion caused me to make a comparison to how political party affiliation effects relationships and conversations with those around us, not to mention the decisions made by our elected officials. Regardless of party affiliation, I believe it is easy to see that the political system is not what our fore-fathers intended it to be. It is time to overlook our differences on abortion laws and gay marriage and be united to change a tired system.

It was announced last week that Obama spent over $60 million in August, while John McCain spent over $40 million. That is $100 million spent in one month, while the two argue over who has the best plan to fix the economy. Maybe by allowing that $100 million dollars to go back into the communities it came from? Campaign reform has the possibility to evoke the same lasting speeches as generations before us. It is something anybody can have a basic understanding of. How hard must it be for a father who works 60 hours a week to make ends meet see a millionaire presidential candidate getting off a private jet paid for not out of his own pocket, but by someone who could have used that $2500 to buy something in his community? According to, a site that tracks where campaign donations come from and how they are spent, the two main candidates have already raised a combined $700 million dollars! Combine that with the $600 million raised by candidates who have already dropped out of the race and that makes $1.3 billion used to campaign for the office of President. Where does all that money go? TV ads, charter planes, meals, campaign buses, salaries, etc. There has to be a better way and that is something everyone, regardless of race, religion, party, can agree on.

At dinner a few weeks ago, we talked about the appeal of a candidate that would not respond to each little jabs and planted rumor from opponents. Take that a few steps further and imagine a candidate who refused to charter a plane to travel from each "swing state", which has to include enough room for all the journalists that track his every move. Or a candidate who doesn't run inflammatory ads during the other party's convention. Instead of traveling with dozens of "advisers", he convinces an airline executive to donate a few seats on a commercial flight instead of money to the campaign. If a candidate could prove to the public they were that committed to improving the economy, then I could start to believe that they truly care about all the people they shake hands with. These ideas should not make people laugh, but should reflect how a campaign works.

Wouldn't it be great to turn on the TV tonight and witness a world changing speech? I am 22 years old and have not experienced that, but I hope my life doesn't pass without that experience. With the technical resources we have at our disposal, Malcolm X wouldn't have to speak to a few thousand people in a Detroit church. It could be broadcast around the country and the world. I hope one day we can experience that and be united in ideals, not broken apart by the empty promises that seem to dominate the nightly news.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Football Frenzy

I dove/dived in head first to football over the last 3 weeks and have not been disappointed. The most amazing part of that sentence is understood by UNLV football fans and "not disappointed" in the same sentence. Yes, I was frustrated when they bent over and got their butts spanked in the second half against Utah, but the other 5 halves they have played made up for it. Sitting with my dad in our living room on saturday still seems as if it was a dream. Coming from 10 points down in the fourth quarter? Still no turnovers this season? A one-handed catch in the end zone? By a freshman? From Las Vegas?...I could go on for a while on how surprised I was to even be in that game, much less win! Here are a few highlights.

The Colts almost got off to a 0-2 start, which may have caused me to go into depression. Even though they ended up winning yesterday's stinker against Minny, I had dreams last night of Greg Gumble saying, "Peterson, still on his feet" while I was being dragged by Adrian Peterson for 5 extra yards. That bent but dont break defense will not work against the big guns! I am not worried about the offense. Peyton should be rusty after knee surgery and no snaps in the preseason. Add to him losing half of his offensive line, including the rock Jeff Saturday, and his favorite check down receiver, Dallas Clark, the rocky start is not a big surprise. They looked a lot better in the second half yesterday, hopefully they can put it all together in the coming weeks. I am a bit worried about the defense. Adrian Peterson is good, but I dont know that he was ever tackled for a loss. Bob Sanders needs to step it up!

I am very excited for the Monday Night game. Philly-Dallas. Shay got lucky this weekend that Keith has been taking his meds, or else her questions of, "What city do the eagles play in?" may have led to a homicide in the Las Vegas area. After the boring Sunday Night game, the boys and eagles should provide enough fireworks for the whole weekend.

One thing to think about. With the way Aaron Rodgers has started, do you think the browns are in any hurry to get Pretty Boy Brady Quinn off the bench? They were in similar situations coming out of college, possible lottery pick, but slid to late in the first round. Hopefully teams will start to see the value of a young qb sitting on the sidelines for a few years soaking up information before throwing him into the fire. I think this is a major reason the NFL needs a rookie pay scale, so teams dont feel bad about letting a guy develop instead of having to guarantee 30 mil, only to see him bust out because of the pressure.

Well, thats about it for the first few weeks of football. We planned our flights to and from NY on Jetblue, enabling us to watch the thursday night college game on the flight out there and the nfl games on the way home...thats dedication, homes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dear Old Shiz

Ya, the title of this blog comes directly from Wicked. I am listening to it right now, which is odd because I have never been enamored with the music (the play itself was fabulous but i never fell for the music), but when one of the songs came on while my ipod was on shuffle, it seemed to fit my mood.

There has not been much excitement in my life lately, just the everyday habits of schooling and working, but all that is about to change. This weekend we are going to Vegas for Justin's farewell. It is weird that he is finally leaving, he had a long wait. Since Hannah made honor roll last year, we are going to Love on Friday night. I cant express my excitement! The Beatles, Cirque du Soleil and CPK all in one night are rumored to cause seizures, I hope that is a false rumor. Also, our friends Trevor and Lauren are coming down to spend the weekend in Vegas also. Trevor and I will be golfing on Saturday, hopefully the girls can figure out something to do while we are enjoying a beautiful day at TPC.

As if all that wasn't enough, we are finally making my "bachelor" trip to New York next weekend. At the beginning of the year, I realized Yankee Stadium was about to go into its last season and neither me, chase nor my dad had ever been there. After discussing this with my dad, we decided this needed to change. The trip had originally been planned for a few weeks before the wedding, hence the bachelor trip name, but due to unforeseen circumstances (or a crazy Spanish teacher at BHS) we had to postpone the trip. We ended up hitting the jackpot. Now, we will be attending the final day game in the history of Yankee Stadium I.

I have spent all of 8 hours in NY, so I am beyond excited for the trip. Food, baseball, booing the Yankees, food, Broadway and 30 rock all in a few days? Sounds like one of my dreams! If anyone has suggestions for New York activities, let me know in the comments. You don't have to tell us the obvious things, those are taken care of, but I like to find something off the beaten path on every vacation.

I am enjoying the Wicked music way too much. I think this more accurately explains my current mental state than any adjectives I could use. Remember, no one mourns the wicked.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Albert Einstein

A few quotes from Albert Einstein to start off the week.
"If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut."

One of my favorites:
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
I first heard this one from my mission president. It pops into my head everytime I talk to friends who dont know why life isnt going the way they want it to, when they have never made any drastic changes to who they hang around or how they treat people.