Tampa Bay Sports Day

Woodstock’s 40th Anniversary Also Recalls Momentous Sports Events in 1969

New York –Woodstock’s 40th anniversary brings to mind a uniquely American event that spoke to an entire generation of young music fans who are now in their fifties and sixties. Just imagine, close to half a million baby-boomers gathered in upstate New York on Max Yasgur’s farm, listening to music, getting stoned, sleeping in mud, having sex. Sounds like a plan.

Could you imagine a festival like Woodstock occurring today? Tickets for those three days of music were sold for 18 dollars to watch super-groups like The Who, The Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Jimi Hendrix and so many more, then at the absolute peak of their creative talent, give extraordinary performances. Could a similar festival of sharing and co-existing in an open field exist today? Maybe, but the ticket prices would probably be about 600 bucks for the weekend, effectively eliminating younger people who couldn’t afford the corporate greed that exists today. Of course, the bands themselves would require all the backstage accoutrement (cases of Evian, anyone?) and lots of cash to appear. Which brings to mind the scene from the movie, “Woodstock” in which many of the musicians are filmed walking through the crowd towards the stage with guitar in hand, saying hi to their fans. Yup, times have changed, haven’t they?

That year, 1969, was also special for other reasons. We should also be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Amazin’ Mets first shocking World Championship and the New York Jets first (and only) Super Bowl championship season. True, the big game itself was played in January, 1970, but why quibble? But, it does make you think of some of the legendary names from that year in the sports and music worlds. If you were lucky enough to watch Namath throw his pure passes down the field, Seaver fire 95 mph fastballs on the black, and Hendrix do his virtuoso thing on the guitar, you are both lucky and getting old. Mostly lucky, though. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.

Of course, 1969 was also the year Neil Armstrong did the original moonwalk, with apologies to the legacy of Michael Jackson, on the powdery surface of the moon, another momentous event for the United States. It stamped this nation as the technological force in the world and provided Americans with a powerful sense of pride in fulfilling the objective of landing a man on the moon, a national goal initially broached by President Kennedy in 1961 in the early stages of his Presidency. Sadly, one gets the sense American technological supremacy has disappeared in the way most dynasties eventually go away.

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Relax, Jet fans. The only thing your quarterback-in-waiting, Mark Sanchez, did was  complete a 48 yard pass in an exhibition game against a bunch of St. Louis Rams players who won’t be on their team when the season starts. The excitement and sports talk radio call-ins about Sanchez as the Messiah is a little on the ridiculous side.

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The Yankees have just about cemented this season as a huge success, exceeding all pre-season expectations. Other than the fear of losing one of their starting four pitchers or worse, Mariano Rivera to injury, it looks like this train is steaming along to a Division championship. Given the team’s recent misfortune in the crap shoot known as a short playoff series, where a couple of hot pitchers can be the great equalizers (see Yankees vs. Tigers and Yankees vs. Indians playoffs), the Yankees are baseball’s best team and the odds-on favorites to bring a World Championship banner to its new stadium.

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The Mets are such an afterthought in the baseball world, particularly-so in their hometown. The biggest news coming out of Mets land is their decision to finally begin the process of turning their new stadium, Citi Field, from a generic ballpark with no connection to previous Mets teams or championships or its players into a building that celebrates the teams’ at-times glorious history. How have the Mets decided to honor their past and create an atmosphere celebrating New York Mets history? By putting gigantic photos of some of their players on the walls of the stadium. Big pictures of former greats like Seaver, Keith Hernandez, Doc Gooden, and Darryl Strawberry. No need to mention here those last three names were all involved with drug use during their playing careers. Maybe that’s what Fred Wilpon was considering when the notion was brought up of turning the Mets new home stadium into a shrine to their once-great players.

You have to admit, though, those Wilpon boys are sharp, aren’t they? They seem to have their finger on the pulse of their fan base, especially the younger ones who came to the ballpark in this, it’s inaugural season only to find zero connections to the Mets franchise and its history. There was a gigantic rotunda (sort of like a big lobby) with a huge, bronze statue of Jackie Robinson in the room’s center with big pictures on the walls of Robinson, the first African-American to play in the major leagues. The fact he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s and 50s seemed lost on the Mets ownership, who opted not to put big pictures of any current or former Mets players on the walls of their three quarter of a billion dollar ballfield until a gigantic crescendo of shock and dismay among Mets loyalists took place. What was Robinson’s connection to the Mets? None, or about as much of a connection as Carlos Delgado has ever developed with Mets fans. And that’s why the Mets win the first annual Mr. Irrelevance award for the 2009 season.

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