A long and glorious era ended this afternoon with a quick, painless (but at the same time, incredibly painful) phone call: For the first time since Opening Day of the 1997 Major League Baseball season, I am no longer a New York Yankees season-ticket holder.
I knew my days were numbered when the new Yankee Stadium became a reality. New sports facilities are 100% geared toward corporate clients, leaving the real fan in far worse seats than they enjoyed in the older buildings. Just ask anyone who has upper-deck tickets for the New York Jets or New York Giants. The new Meadowlands Stadium is probably fantastic for those who can afford to shell out the price of a new car for each PSL, and pay exorbitant ticket prices on top of that. But for fans of average means, the upper deck is awful, with “comparable” seats that are actually 40 feet higher and 40 feet further away from the field.
I had a great run in Box 611 in the real Yankee Stadium. I had my tickets there from 1997-2008, and the Yankees made the playoffs every season except the last one, winning the World Series three consecutive seasons from 1998-2000 (although only clinching the 1999 Fall Classic in the Bronx).
Not only were the seats fantastic, but there was a sense of community in Box 611. Many of the people in the section had the same tickets for years, and I never felt alone at a ballgame on the occasional day or night when I couldn’t find anyone to take my second ticket. We laughed together when the Boston Red Sox choked year after year (until 2004, but let’s not get into that). We cried together when people experienced tragedies, like the loss of the father of one of my best friends during the 1999 World Series. We drank together (BOY, did we drink together!), and we enjoyed the entire experience, whether it was a cold, rainy night against the then-inept Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a beautiful summer afternoon matinee against the hated Red Sox, or time for the intensity of the postseason.
Although the new Yankee Stadium exceeded my expectations when it comes to appearance, the atmosphere has never been the same. As I said earlier, the real fans were pushed higher and further away from the field, leaving embarrassing acres of empty seats on field level, and basically destroying any kind of home-field advantage. Why did this happen? Many fans, myself included, were forced into buying full season tickets in order to get anything resembling a decent location — the seats I was offered to remain in a half-season plan were thoroughly and completely unacceptable. So we all turned into ticket brokers. After all, how many people do you know who can actually go to 81 games, or 41 games?
Since the new ballpark opened its doors, StubHub has been flooded with tickets. Sure, some of them are from people who wouldn’t know a baseball if they swallowed one, and who are just looking to turn a profit. But a healthy chunk of them are from people like myself who are just trying to get some money back on tickets we were basically forced into purchasing and can’t use. The easy access to tickets means two things: Season-ticket holders like myself end up selling tickets at a loss, unless they’re for premium games like the Red Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies, Opening Day, or Old Timer’s Day — you know, exactly the type of games that represent the reason most people buy tickets in the first place. And the number of opposing fans in the ballpark borders on irritating.
Another side effect of the StubHub frenzy: Unlike the community feel of Box 611, there is zero sense of community in the new Yankee Stadium. I went to about 30 games in my 2010 seats in section 314, and I recognized people in the section a handful of times, if it was even that many. Every time I struck up a conversation with someone in seats around me, the answer was the same: “Oh, yeah, I bought them on StubHub.” Managing the season tickets became a part-time job, and an often unrewarding job, at that.
I’m far from alone in feeling this way. Ross Sheingold from NYY Stadium Insider expressed many of the same frustrations in his very well-written blog post.
However, when all is said and done, the main reason why I didn’t keep the tickets was simple: I have been unemployed since October 2008 and, while I have been making some money by blogging, it’s nowhere near enough to justify buying the tickets. I refuse to let a balance accumulate on my credit card unless it’s an absolute, critical, unavoidable emergency, which Yankees tickets don’t qualify as, no matter how much I love having them. A lot of my friends who were regulars are in equally crappy situations where they can’t get to anywhere near the number of games they used to attend. And my wife and I are trying to start a family, which will add more strain to an already-stretched budget, leaving no room for the kind of financial commitment the Yankees require.
Still, if the Yankees were still playing in the original ballpark across the street, I know things would be different. If I still had my seats in Box 611, I’d fight tooth and nail to keep them. My wife and I never, ever fight, but if Box 611 were still in the picture, the truce may have been broken. I just don’t have the same passion for my seats in the new Yankee Stadium. I hate saying this, but they simply weren’t worth fighting for.
I’ll still go to a bunch of games, via StubHub, tickets from friends, and what-not. But not having season tickets for the first time since 1997 feels like a divorce. It’s been a part of my fabric for so long, that there’s just an empty feeling right now. This sucks.