Monday, November 22, 2010

A New Corral Opened, An Old Tradition Renewed

Last week was extremely busy for me, which explains the nine-day gap between postings. The period was not "all nose-to-the-grindstone, all the time," however. Nicky and I managed to get away for a couple of notable sporting events. One you may have heard of. The other... not so much, but it's a big deal in this particular "neck" of the Baltimore County woods.

On Monday the 15th, Stevenson's new Owings Mills Gymnasium hosted men's and women's basketball for the first time. A record crowd of 1,000 packed the place to watch SU's men battle Keystone College, preceded by the women taking on Arcadia University. Neither team won, but the improved atmosphere created by the shifting of game action to SU's residential campus will definitely give both teams a boost. It's clear already, in fact, that the men's team is quite a bit better than last year's shambolic 2-23 outfit with its occasionally misplaced sense of direction. The Mustangs have just finished going 2-1 in the eight-team Pride of Maryland Division III Tournament, which SU hosted. The women are 0-3 but at least have been competitive in all of their games, lacking only the ability to "finish." It should be an interesting season.

On Saturday, at the end of a hellacious week of work, Nicky and I joined the Notre Dame Club of Maryland on a "there-and-immediately-back-again" trek to New York and the new Yankee Stadium. Target: the first Notre Dame-Army game to be played in the South Bronx since 1969.  The site of the legendary old ball yard is now a barren, walled-off construction area (which, I'm told, is to be converted into a park of some sort) directly across the street from the gleaming facade of the new digs. As for said new digs... well. Mighty, mighty impressive. We did take the "high life" route -- eating dinner at NYY Steak, where the small plates are shaped like baseball diamonds (cute) and the noise exuded by the bar-hugging crowd was more akin to that of a neighborhood corner hangout (not so cute, given the price we paid) -- and thus did not quite have the "typical" fan experience, but it's clear that even the hoi polloi (or what passes for such in such an outrageously expensive establishment) are treated royally at the new Yankee. The concession stands, for example, are positioned so that people waiting in line for hamburgers, hot dogs, Cuban sandwiches, chicken, pizza, etc. only need to turn their heads to continue following the action. The seats are comfortable and the restrooms plentiful and reasonably clean. And, of course, there are many, many places where one can buy stuff... which, for this event, included Notre Dame and Army gear, stashed in and among the rows of Derek Jeter, A-Rod, and Javier Vasquez (Vasquez? Is Vasquez still in the league?) replica shirts. The game was technically an ND home game, so there were more Irish chatchkas on hand than Army baubles, but that probably would have been the case even if the game had been played on the plains up at West Point. Nicky and I contented ourselves with a couple of shirts and some small Yankee-themed Christmas gifts.

Our seats were out in left field, which, in this case, translated to being at about the 20-yard line. The gridiron fit quite nicely into the playing surface without the need for any crazy ground rules such as the ones that had been hastily drawn up for the Illinois-Northwestern game at Wrigley Field earlier in the day. The atmosphere wasn't at all the canned, corporate sort I had half expected; the crowd was noisy and lively (the presence of the ND Marching Band -- a real rarity for a regular-season game far from the Midwest -- certainly helped), and ND "rode the wave" to an easy win that continued their late-season resurgence. The concept of "subway alumni" may be a bit anachronistic, but there is evidently still a large reserve of good will towards ND in the New York area. Well, either that, or all the well-heeled alumni on the East Coast pounced on tickets that they wouldn't otherwise have had a chance to get for an Irish "home date."

Comics reviews should recommence later this week.

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