New York, New York
Whoever designed this Times Square ad must have been the same guy that named the six-book HGTTG series a trilogy:
Another terrific night at Yankee Stadium – father and son. Click here for some memories to throw on the pile. And here is the highlight:
We went to watch batting practice before the game, and got a great spot next to the right-field foul pole. Nick Swisher and Joba Chamberlain, two of the nicest guys on the team, were standing in right field shagging fly balls and then throwing them into the stands. When a ball made its way into the corner and Joba came to retrieve it, he caught my eye. I immediately pointed to my son, Brandon, who was staring wide-eyed at Joba with a big smile on his face. Joba handed me the ball.
This being a year where my kids had to choose who got to go to which game, Brandon was nice enough to call home and tell his big brother, Avery, that Avery could have the ball when he brought it home.
The Yankees won the game and the series, meaning there would be no Game 4. As it turns out, though, it looks like Avery might get a chance to see a playoff game this year after all, as I may have secured a pair of tickets to an ALCS game. My kids and I have a rough life, huh?
It’s become a bit of a personal, annual tradition for me to write something on the anniversary of September 11, 2001. Each one, quite obviously, is a little different, and reading through them all now (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009), provide an interesting (at least to me) perspective on how one processes a traumatic event like this one over the years.
This year, I once again note the degree to which we are moving on. There will be memorial services of course, but the President’s remarks at his most recent press conference show the shift in emphasis:
I’ll have further remarks tomorrow, but for now let me just note that tomorrow is a National Day of Service and Remembrance and I hope each of us finds a way to serve our fellow citizens — not only to reaffirm our deepest values as Americans, but to rekindle that spirit of unity and common purpose that we felt in the days that followed that September morning.
As was the case last year, I think this is an altogether healthy thing. We should not forget; we should never forget. But there will never come a time when September 11th isn’t the anniversary of the attacks. If we use the occasion as an annual reminder to do something positive, like a National Day of Service, then the day won’t fade into obscurity the way that Pearl Harbor Day has, for instance. As the grief fades, this grim anniversary will come to stand as a regular reminder of the American values that were attacked that day. I can live with that.
Sadly, there’s something else to note about the ninth anniversary of September 11, 2001. The national spirit of unity and community that enveloped us in 2001 has, as one would expect, long since faded. But this year, somewhat suddenly and for no apparent reason, the opposite sentiment – that of hatred, cruelty, and division seems to have sprung up and captured the national spotlight. It is evident in protests, sometimes peaceful but sometimes violent, against the building of places of worship in America, and it’s evident in the suggested burning of sacred religious texts by those of different faiths. Again, I turn to the President’s remarks:
Anne Kornblut: Thank you, Mr. President. Nine years after the September 11th attacks, why do you think it is that we are now seeing such an increase in suspicion and outright resentment of Islam, especially given that it has been one of your priorities to increase — to improve relations with the Muslim world?
President Obama: I think that at a time when the country is anxious generally and going through a tough time, then fears can surface, suspicions, divisions can surface in a society. And so I think that plays a role in it.
One of the things that I most admired about President Bush was after 9/11, him being crystal-clear about the fact that we were not at war with Islam. We were at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted Islam, had stolen its banner to carry out their outrageous acts. And I was so proud of the country rallying around that idea, that notion that we are not going to be divided by religion; we’re not going to be divided by ethnicity. We are all Americans. We stand together against those who would try to do us harm.
And that’s what we’ve done over the last nine years. And we should take great pride in that. And I think it is absolutely important now for the overwhelming majority of the American people to hang on to that thing that is best in us, a belief in religious tolerance, clarity about who our enemies are — our enemies are al Qaeda and their allies who are trying to kill us, but have killed more Muslims than just about anybody on Earth. We have to make sure that we don’t start turning on each other.
And I will do everything that I can as long as I am President of the United States to remind the American people that we are one nation under God, and we may call that God different names but we remain one nation. And as somebody who relies heavily on my Christian faith in my job, I understand the passions that religious faith can raise. But I’m also respectful that people of different faiths can practice their religion, even if they don’t subscribe to the exact same notions that I do, and that they are still good people, and they are my neighbors and they are my friends, and they are fighting alongside us in our battles.
And I want to make sure that this country retains that sense of purpose. And I think [September 11th] is a wonderful day for us to remind ourselves of that.
And in response to a later question:
We’ve got millions of Muslim Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They’re going to school with our kids. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends. They’re our coworkers. And when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?
I’ve got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan in the uniform of the United States armed services. They’re out there putting their lives on the line for us. And we’ve got to make sure that we are crystal-clear for our sakes and their sakes they are Americans and we honor their service. And part of honoring their service is making sure that they understand that WE DON’T DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN THEM AND US. IT’S JUST US.
[Emphasis added by me]
It’s easy to say that all of this is just politics rearing its ugly head right before a midterm election. But that was the case in 2006 and 2002 as well. And, one could argue, even more so the case in 2004 and 2008, when a Presidential election was on the line.
I think this is something else. A lot of people will believe just about anything they hear repeated enough times on television or the Internet, like the idea that the President of the United States is a secret Muslim who was born in Kenya, or that mosque-goers in lower Manhattan are the equivalent of Al-Qaeda terrorists. The media attention that naturally follows controversial speech provides cover for two kinds of people: those too lazy to think critically about “Today’s Top Story,” and those who actually harbor bigoted feelings towards entire groups of people who are different than they are.
I hope that September 11th truly becomes our annual reminder to “reaffirm our deepest values as Americans.” I also hope that in future years, it serves as a defense against those who would intentionally divide us for the sake of drawing attention to themselves, regardless of their motives. As the President also said repeatedly in his press conference, “We are not there yet.”
Here’s hoping we’re moving in the right direction.
God Bless America.
Walking through Times Square the other day, I came across this giant statue, appropriately standing right near the famous U.S. Army Recruiting Station where the famous VJ-Day Kiss took place back in 1945:
A couple of days later, it was gone. I have no idea from where it came, nor where it went. I’m just glad I took a picture of it so I know I didn’t dream it…
Typically, the first year of a new sports stadium brings large crowds of casual, but curious, fans out to the stadium. In the case of the New York Jets (and, to a lesser extent, the New York Giants, who share the new stadium with them), their decision to require a personal seat license for each season ticket (often running into thousands of dollars in addition to the cost of the seat for next season) has left them with some very angry, lifelong fans and quite a few available seats. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw these folks, dressed in New York Jets jerseys, on the streets of New York, handing out fliers to buy tickets to the games.
And to add insult to injury, someone on the street was harassing them about ticket prices, prompting one of them to yell “I am not a Jet! I am not a Jet!” to passersby. I’m sure this is not what the Jets had in mind for a marketing strategy…
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that an Islamic group has received permission to build a mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. Everyone from Newt Gingrich to Sarah Palin to Glenn Beck has weighed in against the project, claiming that the mosque’s presence would be seen by some as a victory for the 9/11 terrorists. Others have taken a more passive-aggressive tack, claiming that they, personally, don’t mind a mosque, but that putting one so close to Ground Zero would be a cruel reminder of the attacks for the families of those who died there. A smaller contingent is in favor of the mosque, pointing out that one of the things the terrorists attacked on 9/11 is our freedom of religion, with which any American has the right to worship as he/she chooses.
Fortunately, that last group includes New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who, surrounded by religious leaders of many different faiths, gave an impassioned speech about religious freedom while announcing that the petition for the building’s landmark status has been denied, clearing the way for construction to begin.
Today, the New York Times ran an article about the woman in charge of the mosque project. Here are some things I learned from reading the article that I’m sure Newt, Sarah & Glenn don’t want anyone to focus on:
A few days ago, I was walking through Times Square with a friend of mine, and we passed the former site of Times Square’s ESPNZone restaurant. About a month ago, Disney decided to close five of these stores due to lack of profits (isn’t that always the reason?). Anyway, they posted these signs on the doors of the restaurant:
As we walked by the sign, a couple of tourists were reading it as well. One of them said to the other, “Wow, check this out. They closed the ESPNZone TODAY. Damn – we just missed it.” Now, remember, this is mid-July. The first sentence of the letter does say, “ESPN Zone operations in Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. were discontinued today.” But immediately above that sentence is the date the letter was written: June 16, 2010. Perhaps this guy thought they replaced the signs every day?
I just hope he made it home OK. I can imagine him looking at his plane ticket and saying, “Aw, jeez, honey – the flight left a half hour ago. We missed it AGAIN. I guess we’ll just have to try again tomorrow…”
I had some business to conduct in downtown Manhattan today, so I get to update my readers on the latest progress of The Freedom Tower, the 1,776 foot skyscraper being built on the site of the World Trade Center. Here is where things stand as of today:
It’s always hard to tell from the outside, especially in a building who’s lobby has a high ceiling like this one does, but I’m guessing the building is around twenty stories tall at this point (or roughly 200 of it’s eventual 1,776 feet). So they’ve got a long way to go. But I think we can stop calling the Trade Center site “the pit” now. Also, the glass and steel building just behind and slightly to the left of the Freedom Tower is the rebuilt Seven World Trade Center. It’s been built and open for business for quite some time now, but I’d venture to guess that most people don’t know that, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never posted a photo of it on this blog.
They’re also making progress on the national memorial (two reflecting pools which outline the footprint of the original two towers), although that’s not as visible to the naked eye right now, so I didn’t attempt to photograph it.
That’s the update. I’ll try to follow the progress when I get the chance to be downtown…
Quite a bad week for the New York Yankees. First they lost their voice, then they lost their leader. George Steinbrenner bought a flailing franchise with a rich history and returned it to its former glory. He was a brilliant businessman, a confident leader, a passionate sports fan, and a charitable benefactor.
He was also one mean sonofabitch, who let his passion for winning make him vindictive, and occasionally afoul of the law (he was suspended from baseball twice – and reinstated both times). He changed the game of baseball, changed the Yankees, and even changed The House that Ruth Built. In short, he changed just about everything he touched. Some people hated him for it while it was happening, but the baseball world is mourning him today.
My personal memories of George Steinbrenner, aside from all the “Bronx Zoo” antics of the late 70′s – the arguments, the firing of managers, the controversy-baiting game he played with the New York sportswriters – was how such a tough man could have such a big heart. In 1981, when I was twelve years old, Yankee pitcher Tommy John’s youngest son fell out of the third-story window of their home. He required brain surgery and then lay in a coma for 17 days before making a full recovery. I remember reading that George Steinbrenner paid all of the doctor’s bills, and offered to pay for Travis’ college education when he recovered. In later years, I read similar stories about him spending money to fund drug rehabilitation (for players like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry) and helping out Jorge Posada’s son, who was diagnosed with craniosynostosis at the age of ten days old. Over the years, he’s setup many charitable foundations, usually to fund scholarships for kids, particularly those who’s parents were police officers or firefighters killed in the line of duty. Thankfully, these charities, along with the New York Yankees, were a family business, and his four children have taken the reins ever since Mr. Steinbrenner’s health began to fail.
Thanks, Boss. Not just for all the championships, but for instilling the Yankees with the consistent expectation of excellence. Many reviled you for this trait, called you cut-throat or mercenary, and accused you of “buying championships.” But as you used to say, “Winning is important. It’s a way of life.” You taught your kids (and me, and eventually my kids) that it is important to set goals and it is okay to be disappointed when you don’t achieve them. Failure teaches lessons; it drives improvement. Trying hard is great, but it should never be the goal. Success should always be the goal. I get the feeling that this will be your legacy in the Bronx. I look forward to many more years of exciting baseball as a result of your tutelage.
A sports icon passed away today – Yankee announcer Bob Sheppard was 99 years old, and was the voice of Yankee Stadium from 1951 until his retirement, due to poor health, in 2007. In that time, he announced more than 4,500 major league baseball games. Anyone under the age of 60 or over the age of 5 who has been to Yankee Stadium has heard (and likely remembers) his voice.
Back in May of 2000 (May 7th, to be exact), my family and I went to Yankee Stadium for a game, and realized when we got there that it was Bob Sheppard day. The Yankees honored Mr. Sheppard with several gifts, brought him out on the field, had him read the lineups, and then gave him the day off. It was the first Yankee game I had ever been to where Bob Sheppard wasn’t the announcer, and it remained the only such game until 2008. At that game, they gave each fan a commemorative pin:
If you click on the image above, you’ll hear a few of Mr. Sheppard’s most common announcements, strung together in a fitting goodbye message . . . to himself.
I also found this YouTube video (from that same day in May of 2000), which features Bob Sheppard announcing the many Yankee greats for which we all remember him best, as well as some recollections by some of those Yankee greats:
Rest in Peace, Mr. Sheppard. And thanks for the many, many memories…