Hoffman’s front row seat of New York Yankees fans destroying the Astros
Intriguing overseas travel is tough enough in this era of a pandemic, but last week I visited a place that was unlike anything I have ever seen before.
New York City. And I’ve been there a thousand times.
I went to PS 125 and lived across from Grant’s Tomb. So I’m used to the place.
Not now. Where was the traffic, the traffic jam of yellow cabs blowing horns, the crowded sidewalks of Times Square, the line of customers waiting for their slices at Joe’s Pizza on Broadway?
Big Apple … or big ghost town?
By New York standards, the city was a ghost town. You can walk anywhere along Seventh Avenue without dodging cars like George Costanza playing Frogger. Many shops and small restaurants have been closed, some temporarily, some permanently.
Radio City Music Hall is dark, the next scheduled event is Alicia Keys August 12-13. Broadway shows are scheduled to return in September. There were a lot of empty seats on the usually jostling and sweaty armpit D train between Grand Central and Yankee Stadium.
New Yorkers warmly welcome your Houston Astros
I was in New York for all three Astros games against the Yankees. I wanted to hear how New Yorkers can boo our guys. It was their first chance to speak in person since the Astros cheating scandal erupted in 2019. These fans have waited a long time for it and they haven’t held back.
Every three games, cries of “F-Altuve” rocked the stadium. I spoke to a friend in Houston who was listening to the Yankee’s satellite radio signal. He said you could hear “Correa sucks” and “Bregman cheats” loud and clear.
You’ve never heard 10,850 fans ringing like a sold-out stadium like this. The language on these people. It all came back to me.
Fan bloodlust centered on Jose Altuve, who was named MVP of 2017 against Yankees hitter Aaron Judge. It was the year the Astros knocked out the Yankees 4-3 in the American League Championship Series, with the Astros’ four wins at Minute Maid Park. This explains these signs with Altuve’s head coming out of a trash can like Oscar the Grouch.
The trash talk got so tough that the Astros filed a formal complaint with the MLB, and several Yankees fans were kicked out for being, say, a little too personal. Carlos Correa was particularly upset by the taunts launched on the way to Altuve. Fans ignored the New York City playground rule – âdon’t say anything about my momâ.
Staying Safe in the Big Apple
Before and after baseball games, the biggest culture shock for Texans visiting New York City now and so soon is wearing a mask. The people of New York wear them. Inside stores, outside on the street, at Yankee Stadium, in Central Park, on public transportation, just hanging out in Times Square.
To enter Yankee Stadium, I had to show my vaccination card and driver’s license. A negative COVID test in the past 72 hours would also have been accepted. And they checked to make sure the names and addresses match. Inside the baseball stadium, you sat in the spot indicated by your ticket. The Yankees were allowed to draw 20% of their capacity, and most seats were locked in their full, upright position to prevent fans from crawling to the best seats on the court.
Security guards patrolled the stadium showing supporters who were not wearing masks or wearing them incorrectly. âCover your nose and mouth,â they ordered.
Starting May 19, the Yankees will sell two types of tickets – to fans who are fully vaccinated and to fans who are not vaccinated. Vaccinated fans will be allowed to sit in designated sections without social distancing. Unvaccinated ventilators will be limited to sections with 33% capacity and most seats locked to ensure social distancing.
All fans should always wear masks at all times, except when actively eating and drinking.
It may seem heavy and philosophically unnecessary, certainly inconvenient, to Astros fans who have packed Minute Maid Park, where only the catchers and home plate umpires wear masks. New Yorkers all agree on face covers.
One day I left Joe’s Pizza and forgot to put on my mask. Habit. You should have seen pedestrians hugging buildings and curbs to avoid being near me. That night, in my hotel lobby, the concierge explained, “In New York, we wear masks.”
I’m not going to get into the vaccine or no vaccine, mask versus no mask, Houston versus New York debates, but there is one thing about a baseball game at Yankee Stadium that is second to none: the famous Nathan’s fries. They are the best and there will be no backtalk. I had a foot and big fries. The fries are beyond, you’ll lick the paper tray for leftover salt and crumbs.
And if you are visiting New York, or really anywhere, no one is playing games at the airport or on the plane. Wear your mask and don’t yell about it. A passenger eating a Twizzler was recently kicked off a southwest plane because he did not pull his mask up between the bites. They also issued the âbetween the bitesâ warning on my United flight.
While wearing a mask might seem odd during an entire flight, even if you are asleep, do so. You don’t want to find yourself on YouTube booed by other passengers like Altuve at Yankee Stadium.
One thing about air travel has not changed. I swear it happens every time – almost.
My door will be furthest from the ticket office. Coming Home, Gate 126 at Newark Airport, a new personal best.