By Tom Semioli
This editorial was published on HUFFINGTON POST.COM (August 2013)
Six years ago a dear friend and former band-mate of mine – who once slung a Gibson Les Paul waist low whilst brilliantly plying his craft in the music venues that formerly dominated the Greenwich Village New York City landscape – formed a tight knit group of simpatico retired rock ‘n’ rollers to engage on a bravura bucket list sojourn: to visit all thirty major league baseball parks before we pass on to that great Guitar Center in the sky.
Two stadiums per season spread out over fifteen years is our destiny. Commencing annually with a rejuvenating spring weekend in May and concluding with a delightful dog days of August weekend; we rocker baseball fans leave behind our beloved first (and second) wives and children to travel to these tax funded cathedrals that have hosted our Hall of Fame heroes: George Brett, Aerosmith, Nolan Ryan, Genesis, Cal Ripken, and the Rolling Stones, among many others.
To experience our national pastime from a perspective other than that of devout New York Yankee – New York Met fandom is a welcome respite from life in a city which no longer represents nor nurtures the spirit and noble work of our rock ‘n’ roll youth. That is, the new, New York City which has devolved into the gentrified terrain of upscale bars, luxury condos, designer boutiques, and foreign investors – to name a privileged few.
I weep not – it is the Big Apple’s loss that record stores, recording studios and rock clubs are now frozen yogurt joints and karaoke dungeons. No wonder the kids still listen to my music and copy my riffs while they try to play my guitars! And don’t get me started on the escalating costs of attending games at Yankee Stadium and Citi- Field. Baseball is the sport of kings, not Queens County, where Tom Terrific and the Beatles played Shea.
That we should compose a blue collar blues song documenting the fall of our once artistically vibrant and affordable sports metropolis would go against our indie rock fiber – we come from the school of concisely composed guitar solos and infectious melodic hooks- our misery does not need company longer than 3:50!
And does a baseball game need to run longer than three hours especially given the fact that television commercials and network promos have denied us the pageantry and ritual of the National Anthem, pitchers warming up, and local announcers pontificating during rain-delays? I’d rather engage in the pageantry and ritual to flip a record album from side one to side two than subject myself to needless bonus tracks and exclusive downloads. Did anybody really need a new Yankee Stadium? Shea was to CBGB what the House that Ruth Built was to Carnegie Hall.
Akin to the old jocks who wear the garb of their teams, we old rockers are still dressed to thrill – ourselves, mostly – in tight jeans, retro shades, defunct record-store and rock venue t-shirts, jangly chains and jewelry and the like- the uniform of our former trade. Do we notice the young waitresses rolling their eyes as we enter the local bistro? Not a chance. After all, though we did not fill their stadiums, we did traverse their cities and dive clubs in search of fame and fortune.
As such, we errantly consider ourselves more respectable than our burly beach-ball bellied jock counterparts in their authentic double-knit jersey threads. Do they notice the young waitresses rolling their eyes as they enter the local bistro? Of course not, it’s happy hour…every hour!
Frank Zappa taught us “you are what you is.” Former high-school and college jocks oft fall prey to the corresponding ravages of time as do their ex- rocker counterparts. Old jocks grow large from the lack of exercise borne of intense athletic competition: we remain rock star skinny by way of that reverb laden voice in the back of our hearing- impaired psyche that repeats “we still have one more tour left in us! Let’s book some studio time…” Proclaimed Yogi Berra; “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
We sit at the games side by side. Who was the faster, superior and most fluid all-around player? Mays? Blackmore? Clemete? Page? Old jocks bemoan the demise of the complete game pitcher; we old rockers do too, along with the forced extinction of the vinyl album. They miss the comfort of Forbes Field; we still lament the death of The Bottom Line. The Yankees were never the same after they let Reggie Jackson walk after four seasons; Joe Strummer destroyed The Clash much too soon when he fired Mick Jones. Score cards? Liner notes…the list goes on.
This past weekend we continued our merry middle-aged pilgrimage to witness the pitiful White Sox outlast the Minnesota Twins at Chicago’s cavernous, corporatized U.S. Cellular Field. A trio of us remaining rockers who had scheduled later flights back to New York celebrated a little longer with one last Chicago beer at one last Chicago sports bar. Surrounded by larger-than-life images of Bobby Hull, Mike Ditka, and Sid Luckman – the old New York rockers and the old Chicago jocks drew sides: glaring at each other from across the rectangular bar.
A few good natured-though- too-rude-to- be- repeated insults were hurled to see who would crack first. I turned down a several hundred dollar offer for my 1970s rocker hat, though I could use the cash. The old jocks spurned my offer of an accessory that I should have stopped wearing in 19…
Yet when vintage footage of sports stars of yore shone on the flat-screens accompanied by the din of an alt-rock classic: we all laughed together and hugged each other. The old Chicago jocks bought the old New York rockers one last round because they are the gracious home team and we were nearly broke. We saw our younger selves in each other.
Old jocks and old rockers: we too are one in the Windy City.