New York City has cleaned up its act in recent years, but in some ways I think it is now scarier than it used to be.
I grew up close to the city and went there quite often as a kid. It was a hard dirty place, but it was also honest, in a not entirely legal kind of way, and I liked it.
Anyway, I flew to theUnited Stateslast week to attend my sister’s wedding and while I was there I made a couple of trips into the city. I’d heard the place had changed but when I went in with my daughters we all felt perfectly safe as we wandered around Times Square, Broadway, Central Park, Chinatown, Little Italy andGreenwich Village.
No prostitutes, no drug dealers on the streets, not a single mugger prowling the park and there were clean wholesome looking young people in bright shirts promoting bus tours in the inner city and city employees in information booths assisting tourists in the park. There was even a guy selling jokes.
Everything was clean, friendly and easy… but for some reason, that didn’t make me entirely happy.
Then, when I went back to the city with my brother-in-law-to-be and his brothers to watch a baseball game, I began to figure out what was bothering me about the new lookNew York.
When I was growing up baseball was part ofNew Yorkin the same way that football is part ofAfrica. People understood the game, talked about the game and loved the game – and when they went to watch a game live they were in heaven.
And that’s the way it still was for the in-laws and for me as we watched the home team Mets hold off the Pittsburgh Pirates 6 – 5 in a thrilling game that featured 13 strikeouts for the Mets pitcher who earned his 20th win of the season, three homeruns and possibly the best defensive play of the Major League season that saw the Pirates right-fielder climb the fence and reach a full metre beyond it to catch another ball that would have been a homerun.
It really was quite a game, but evidently the people who organize these things didn’t think it was enough to keep our fellow fans happy. Between innings there were competitions and prize draws, and between every pitch either loud music or some kind of cheer leading boomed out on the public address system.
I found it insulting both to me as a fan and to the game.
The next day one of my sisters told me that’s the way it is at all sports events now because Americans expect to be entertained all the time these days. Then she observed that she thought that was the reason why football hasn’t really caught on as a spectator sport – people don’t want to, or can’t, pay attention to continuous play for that long.
The reason I’m writing about my visits toNew Yorkis that the city is not the first place I’ve come across the piped music between the action thing. They do it at kids’ music concerts inEngland, and more importantly, they do it between races at swimming galas inBotswana.
Entertaining people while they are being entertained; that’s theNew YorkStateof mind and if that’s where the rest of the world wants to go, then I find that very scary indeed.