New York Post: It’s always a nice idea to give fans a double-truck cover—that is, to use the front and back cover of the newspaper as a single image that can be pulled off the paper and tacked into that fabricky divider next to your desk at work. We don’t think too many Yankees fans will be doing that this morning, though. The Post chooses a photo with Derek Jeter standing rather heroically at the right, looking out into the stands; the focus is on the star, and the fans. How posed was this photo? Inside, the Post compares Mr. Jeter’s pose, looking out at fans, to popular images of Babe Ruth, who famously hit a three-run homer with his heavy wooden bat in a game against Boston; the cheer at that hit began the coinage “The House That Ruth Built.” And in fact, in a little bit of ceremonial flourish, a bat boy lay the very bat across home plate before Derek Jeter approached the plate; he joked with the bat boy by picking up the Ruth bat and pretending for a moment that he planned to hit with it instead of with his own before—psych!—passing the heirloom bat back to the bat boy. Fans arrived hours early for the coveted seats at this christening, and a list of names of people we can’t remember unless we keep going back to look at the article again, names that in typical Yankee fashion are so ubiquitous and such lowest-common-denominator crowd-pleasers that you forget them the instant you think about them. The Post reporters were in the stands, though, interviewing fans who talked about the “new-car smell” and wanted to know whether they had to pay money to hang out in the Mohegan Sun theme bar. They seemed happy, until the game was under way.
Hometown tabloids are passionate about hometown teams. When the team does well, the apoplexy of joy is a thing to behold. The metaphors get positively Homeric; tears stain the cheap paper. When the team bombs, there is no metaphor too base to circulate. Last night, the Bombers bombed. So inside the paper you have the game dubbed a desecration, the stadium turned into a “commode,” the fans accused of having been slipped mickeys.
So a funny game is needed for this double-truck cover: The front, that you see face-up on the newsstand, has to communicate the overall excitement at the christening of the new Yankee Stadium, but the back sports page must not pull punches. So what do we get? On the cover, next to Derek Jeter’s heroic form, the words “PRIDE OF THE YANKEES,” with a little bar of text underneath that reads, “HISTORIC OPENING DAY AT THE NEW STADIUM.” Flip the paper over and, in smaller display text across the bottom, the page reads, “Beautiful day—pity about the ballgame.”
Daily News: The News also goes with a double-truck this morning, but somehow it feels completely different from the Post‘s. It’s very pretty in the way baseball pictures are supposed to be, with their vivid greens and blues. With a sort-of aerial view (perhaps just taken from a high seat?) you get the whole diamond, along with the opening-ceremony unfurling of a giant flag in the outfield. It is very pretty: it captures the stadium the way an architectural rendering aspires, and usually fails to do. And, it fails. Last night’s game was about a new stadium, but once the people are in the stadium, it’s not about the architecture, the field, anymore. It’s about the players and the fans. This very pretty picture of the stadium, minus the flag, could have been taken when no game was on at all; the Post chose the first photo where Derek Jeter could be seen against the backdrop of his fans in the new stadium that was built for their team. But, hey, it is very pretty in its own way.
Like the Post, the News has a conundrum about how to play the jinxy first performance of the Bombers in their new stadium. The coverline reads, “WHOLE NEW BALLGAME!” and beneath, “HISTORIC OPENING OF YANKEE STADIUM.” Sure! Can’t really go wrong there, can you? In fact, all of this copy could have been written in time for the editors to make the 5:15 express back to Montclair, regardless of the game’s outcome. So surely the back sports page was held open for a result? Nope. No sign of any copy on the back—unless you count the strip ad sold against this poster-wrap cover, advertising New York’s Mega Millions jackpot.
General observations: My family never traveled anywhere growing up. But one thing my mother always said was, she didn’t see the point of taking pictures of monuments, streets, scenes you encountered in big famous places without people in them, unless you yourself were a real photographer. Why not just buy the postcards? Because when you stick these photos in a shoebox and open it up again years later, there’s no connection to the places you’re looking at in the photos. No matter what your friends and family look like, the picture is more attractive with them in it.
These wraps were planned as keepsakes. There are and will be plenty of gorgeous photos of green baseball diamonds and of Yankee Stadium packed to capacity with fans—for instance, the first time a game that actually matters as a game takes place there. Babe Ruth’s three-run homer was not the first at-bat at the old Yankee Stadium, and in retrospect this terrible game will also become unimportant. The editors of the tabloids of course couldn’t have known that, and they both did the right thing in making their covers into commemorative posters. But if there was anything worth commemorating, it was the personality and historical moment of April 16, 2009. And with a person—however insignificant he may have turned out to be once the game got under way—at the center.
Winner: New York Post
Follow Tom McGeveran via RSS.