As I sat glassy-eyed in front of my television last Sunday night, my heart began a slow and painful journey to the back of my throat. I sat alone; relieved that nobody else was present to witness my moment. The previous week was dominated by unsettling headlines from Wall Street and a number of unwelcome developments on the campaign trail, yet I had managed to keep my emotions in check without a problem. My self-enforced toughness melted on Sunday night. Yankee Stadium—an icon of my childhood and a bastion of countless memories—was closing its doors for the final time. The arrival of that long-expected reality moved me in a way I had not fully anticipated.
I was born abroad and spent much of my early childhood overseas. Outside of my membership in the Boy Scouts of America ("Be prepared!"), I had very few substantive ties to the nation that I nonetheless called home. Some things were never in doubt, though. My parents both grew up in greater New York, so it was made clear to be from an early age that the Bensons were Yankee fans. I was familiar with the famous interlocking N-Y logo well before I had any idea what a sacrifice bunt was. So when we moved back stateside, one of my urgent priorities was to attend a Yankees home game to see what the big deal was. My father, anxious to baptize his nine-year-old into official Yankee fandom, bought four tickets along the first base line for an early season afternoon game at The Stadium in 1994. I don't remember very much about the game itself, except for the fact that the Yankees fell to Baltimore and manager Buck Showalter was ejected for a rare animated argument with an umpire. What I remember clearly is how overwhelmed I was by the enormity of the venue, and by the energy of the fans. I was hooked.
Over the next 15 years, I took in dozens of contests at the great ballpark in the Bronx. I grew up with that place. I remember the agony when the Yanks blew a 2-0 series lead to Seattle in the 1995 playoffs. I fondly recall the tears of joy and sparkling cider that marked my family's basement celebration when the Yankees won the World Series the very next season. I remember the exhilarating tension that gripped the city during the Subway World Series of 2000, and I still can't quite stamp out the smoldering remnants of Boston's surreal ALCS comeback in 2004. I only experienced a tiny fraction of the 85-year history of Baseball's Cathedral, but I still perceive it as an inextricable part of my identity as a sports fan.
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