New Mets Stadium: A Home Run

It appears as though New York will get a new stadium after all. It won’t be built on the West Side of Manhattan, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg wished. Instead, it will rise in the Flushing Meadows section of Queens, and it will be paid for not by the Jets, but by the Mets. Whether or not the city wins its Olympic bid, the stadium is a terrific idea.

Less than a week after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver killed Mr. Bloomberg’s plan to build a combined football-Olympic stadium over the West Side rail yards, the city and Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon announced plans to build a new ballpark adjacent to the Mets’ current home, Shea Stadium. The Mets would pick up almost the entire tab for the $600 million facility.

The Mets have been looking to replace their aging ballpark for nearly a decade. Amazingly enough, Shea Stadium is one of the oldest major-league stadiums in the country, although a good many of us can remember its opening in 1964. Only Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and, of course, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx are older. (Yankee Stadium really doesn’t count-a massive renovation in the mid-1970’s robbed the stadium of its old-fashioned feel.)

Given the way ballparks have changed over the last 15 years, with a premium on expensive skyboxes and faux charm, the Mets have every right to replace Shea, which has no glassed-in skyboxes and even less charm. As it happens, the Mets’ desires meet the city’s needs: The new stadium will be converted for use in the Olympics if New York is awarded the Games next month. And by proposing a stadium in Queens, the election-year conversation has been changed as well: No longer will we need to hear from the advocates and opponents of the Jets’ stadium on the far West Side.

The new stadium deserves everyone’s support. The Mets, unlike their counterparts in the Bronx, have been good citizens. They’ve never made any noises about moving from their home borough. They have never hinted darkly that they might move across the Hudson River to New Jersey if their demands were not met.

Instead, Mr. Wilpon and other team executives have waited patiently while the city has been distracted by other issues. Mr. Wilpon first proposed a stadium, which he envisions as a modern recreation of the Ebbets Field of his youth, in the late 1990’s. He has been working quietly, behind the scenes, ever since.

Now the moment seems right. The Mets, their fans and the city deserve this stadium.

Bush and Kerry at Yale

Many Democrats have yet to get over George W. Bush’s defeat of John Kerry last November. How did the principled, dignified war hero lose to the goofy, ne’er-do-well Connecticut preppie in Stetson boots? How could Americans choose four more years of Mr. Bush, after he had endangered the nation with foolish tax cuts that pushed the federal deficit toward $5 trillion? Why would we re-elect a man who had cooked the books in order to plunge the country into a hugely expensive and ill-conceived war, meanwhile having alienated our historic allies and declared that civil liberties were expendable? How could the country embrace a man who was stripping away environmental protections and fattening the wallets of his cronies in pursuit of a radical right-wing domestic agenda? Surely John Kerry, though hardly charismatic, could unseat such an unsuitable President.

And yet he could not. Somehow, Americans bought Mr. Bush’s version of John Kerry more than they did Mr. Kerry’s version of himself. And for all the post-election grumbling about the Republican Party’s brilliant, bloodthirsty strategists, the fact was, John Kerry defeated John Kerry. There was something-it had to be said-a bit phony about Mr. Kerry’s entire campaign. A sense that he was somehow not leveling with voters. The popular image of Mr. Kerry was that he was “the smart one,” as opposed to Mr. Bush’s rather dopey demeanor. But just how smart was Mr. Kerry? He was always cagey about releasing his college transcripts from Yale University, and now it’s clear why: It turns out the smart one wasn’t quite as smart as the dumb one.

Mr. Kerry’s cumulative average at Yale was 76; Mr. Bush’s was 77. It seems neither man lit up the New Haven sky with brilliance. Instead, they were masters of mediocrity. During his college years, Mr. Kerry, class of ’66, earned five D’s, including two in history and one in political science. Mr. Bush, class of ’68, only received one D, in astronomy. Mr. Kerry’s highest grade was an 89, in political science. Mr. Bush’s highest grade was an 88, which he earned in three courses: anthropology, history and philosophy.

That Mr. Kerry stumbled through Yale with a C average doesn’t mean he would not have made a better President than Mr. Bush. But it does expose the distance between the campaign image Mr. Kerry tried to project-that of the cerebral realist running against the dissolute party boy-and who he really was. And the voters detected that false note, in several aspects of Mr. Kerry’s persona, and concluded there was something a bit arrogant about the man from Massachusetts. And because Mr. Kerry just wasn’t comfortable being himself, he allowed Mr. Bush’s team to define him.

Clearly, John Kerry could learn something from George W. Bush-even if neither learned much at Yale.

Has America Gone Crazy?

Feeling a bit bonkers today? You’re in good company: A $20 million federal study, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, reports that more than half of Americans will develop a mental illness at some point during their lives. The survey, which appears in The Archives of General Psychiatry, classified as “mental illness” any condition which met the criteria in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Of course, there is an ongoing, vigorous debate on whether the boundaries of mental illness are being too widely drawn these days, given the current fashion for medicalizing all sorts of problems which previously might have been written off as mere human quirks. But even with that caveat, the new study indicates that Americans are becoming more, rather then less, mentally troubled in this new century. Studies in the 1950’s, for example, diagnosed mental illness in just 20 to 30 percent of Americans.

The researchers, led by Dr. Ronald Kessler, a professor of health-care policy at Harvard Medical School, found that the most common problem was depression, striking about 17 percent of Americans at some time in their lives, and alcohol abuse, which afflicts about 13 percent of the population. Also prevalent was social phobia, a crippling anxiety which was reported by 12 percent of respondents.

Most problems first surface at a young age, sometimes as young as 11, pointing to the urgent need for parents, teachers and social workers to look closely for signs of depression and other mood disorders in children, and to make sure they receive treatment. As Dr. Kessler said, in admitting that the study’s definition of mental illness covered a lot of ground, “The fact is that there is a very wide range included here, with the equivalent of many psychiatric hangnails. We don’t want to demonize those, but we don’t want to trivialize them, either, because we know in many cases they lead to serious problems later on.”

Most disturbingly, the study found that only a third of those suffering a form of mental illness sought out an effective treatment. One hopes that with the increased visibility of public figures who have discussed their own brave battles with mental illness-prominent Americans such as William Styron, Mike Wallace, Dick Cavett and Jane Pauley-the stigma will continue to lessen, and more people will seek help.