Out of New York, along the edge of the Bronx, taking the long route to get a last glimpse at Yankee Stadium, the venerable home of New York baseball for more than eighty years, about to be demolished and replaced. The way that this evisceration of a beloved landmark has been familiar: a relentless PR effort by management and especially players to sell the move as necessary, a birth not a death etc etc.

They need to because there is a mute melancholy around about the decision. Pleasure grounds, sports stadiums, Luna Park or Princes Park — they’re all places we associate with simple moments of happiness, of joy undilute in a late goal or a home run, a lightness and presence we remember before it all went horribly wrong.

Saying that the “tradition of the stadium will live on”, as one after another multimillionaire player was wheeled on to affirm, is beside the point — these are concrete objects, sacred sites, they anchor us to place and time. Like a cathedral spire, a stadium can be seen from all places in the neighbourhood, from all approaches. But of course nothing lasts for ever? Some stadiums, like Wembley, have to be replaced because the crowds just dwarf them now. Didn’t the Yankee have to die?

No is the answer, and you realise that as you come across the Triborough Bridge and see rising behind Yankee stadium … Yankee stadium. Yes, they’ve already built its replacement just behind it — a copy done in high-lux fashion, the sort of faux-Roman style beloved of instant five star hotels and wedding reception centres.

The new Yankee stadium has been completed before the old is demolished, and it’s not so much larger than the original. As m’generous NY benefactor Philip explained, such a move — part of a wave of demolitions — had nothing to do with capacity. It is so that class and corporate power can be cemented into the architecture, with corporate boxes in the new Yankee stadium piled to the sky, and a total separation between the areas occupied by corporate clients — most of whom couldn’t give a sh-t about a ball and stick game — and actual fans.

In the old stadium rich and poor would have to watch the game in something approaching common conditions, and that is surely part of the meaning of sport, its universal character. The new stadium hangs behind the old, a parallax error generated by the faulty vision of the last decade or so. The faux marble — a dead spit of Nicolae Ceausescu’s monster edifices in Bucharest — shimmers and seems less substantial than the air around it.

“We gotta start getting tough with the CEOs, I mean these guys get paid whatever happens,” some blowhard is on the radio as we cruise into New York state.

This morning the fabled $700 billion blowout has been sheeted towards the Democratically-controlled Congress to deal with.

It’s a crock of course, with the White House as represented by Treasury Secretary Paulson trying to stampede everyone into signing a blank cheque without any provisions for re-regulation, social equity, an inquiry into how the whole damn mess occurred, limits on golden parachutes etc etc. There’s no time for that. Indeed the situation is so dire that Treasury really needs some elbow room to work. Here is section eight of the plan:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

You have to wearily admire the chuzpah. The most immediate aspect of this crisis came about because oversight and regulation was removed from a key sector of the finance market because — according to its advocates — the western economy needed increased liquidity and velocity if it was to compete against the east. And now the solution is to abolish checks and balances altogether.

As New York City gave way to the drab and dilapidated towns of New York state — old diners with pink paint flaking off the windows, gas stations with signs for oil companies that no longer exist — the bailout, as reported on the radio, got richer still — like the Cloverfield monster fattening itself on whole cities. By Tuxedo Junction, foreign banks were lining up to be part of the bailout — UBS, which pays Phil Gramm, making the loudest noise.

By Woodstock, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley had turned themselves into — by merely saying so — commercial (rather than investment) banks, thus affording them greater guaranteed protection in return for reduced scope of operation. This was … there are no words for this. It’s like the scene in escape movies where the prisoners make inch-perfect uniforms from a gray sock and a tin of nugget and pass themselves off as the German general staff. Will they get away with it? It depends if they’ve got someone on the inside, like say, former Goldman Sachs partner current Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Yet even here in the heartland, as farms that nothing ever trickled down to streamed by, the Democrats were still failing to sock home what would be to any half-effective political outfit the greatest gift of a decade.

“Well I’ve always voted Democrat,” said one radio caller as the tuner switched stations as we travelled between towns. “But I just don’t know if Obama has the experience, I mean what’s his solution for this?”


The Democrats are still on the defensive. Rather than piloting some ludicrous populist bill called the Flay The Rich Act or something, they’ve given us a beautiful, responsible alternative bailout bill which makes them the Republicans b–ch again, again.

We hit Burlington around evening. I bought a Coke, a local paper and a copy of the free state secessionist magazine. The paper had a Yankee stadium story.

“That’s sad,” the cashier said.

I looked up. She was wiping away a tear.

“They’ve built another one,” I said.

“It’s never going to be the same,” she said.

Indeed it ain’t. Indeed it ain’t.

All that looks solid is melting into air…

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey