Every Tuesday in Touchdown Jesus, staff writers Cray Allred and Valerie Dunham engage with the popular and polarizing world of sports from a Christian perspective. 

If you have never sat in a premium seat in Yankee Stadium—well, turns out you’re in good company.

Controversy that started back in February culminated in Twittery goodness last week when #Ihaveneversatinapremiumlocation began trending. If you haven’t checked this out yet, you’re wasting your Internet life on cat memes and inspirational quotes superimposed over sunsets. If you’d like to remedy that, you may do so here.

The uproar started when New York Yankee COO Lonn Trost, in a misguided attempt to explain the newest front on his war with StubHub, indicated that those who buy premium seats should not be forced to sit next to StubHub-patronizing riff raff. “The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money,” Trost said during an interview on Boomer and Carton. “It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and (another) fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount. And quite frankly,” he continued, “the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.” Trost’s implication is clear: premium seat buyers epitomize a style of baseball spectating best unspoiled by commoners.

The tension between old and new isn’t unique to baseball…The strain of change is one that all of humankind struggles both for and against.

If you’re unfamiliar with the subculture that surrounds America’s pastime, you’re likely wondering, “Is there really a wrong way to place your baseball-loving butt in an overpriced ballpark seat?” The answer, of course, would be yes. Donning a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume would be one of those ways. Unicorn and Left Shark get-ups, too. But thanks to comedian John Oliver, all of these costumes could be seen in the premium seats directly behind home plate during the Yankees’ home opening series. In protest of Trost’s February comments, the Last Week Tonight host sold the worthiest fans premium seats for twenty-five cents per ticket. It was as glorious as you imagine Left Shark and Donatello watching baseball should be.

While this Red Sox fan would like to believe that Trost’s brand of snobbery is somehow unique to the Evil Empire, it’s not. Sadly, it’s representative of an attitude prevalent in baseball as a whole—one that prioritizes the fancies of the traditionally old white men who comprise the largest portion of the sport’s fan base. It’s the same attitude that criticizes players like Yasiel Puig  and Bryce Harper for bringing a style that emphasizes the entertainment aspects of sport. Emphatic home run celebrations or a slow trot around the bases—touches of flair that would likely be tolerated, if not openly admired, in the NFL or NBA—are frowned upon in baseball. Such criticism highlights the fault lines in the widening fracture between traditionalist fans and fans ushering in a new age of the sport—one that discards many of the unwritten rules of America’s pastime.

The rift is not new. But it is widening. Traditionalist fans tend to prioritize values that celebrate grudges and forgo showmanship. Nailing a guy with a ninety mile per hour fastball is fine, but flipping your bat on the heels of a homer is obviously crossing the line. This attitude, though, is being contested by a generational gap and value shift. (Okay, getting smoked by a fastball is still on the up and up—but under the millennials’ reign of terror, you get to flip your bat.)

Baseball is changing. If you ask the advocates of that change, they’ll tell you it’s not changing fast enough. Meanwhile, traditionalists will slap you with their baseball scorecards for introducing hashtags and Left Shark to their beloved, two-hundred-plus-year-old game.

The tension between old and new isn’t unique to baseball, though. You could substitute “fog machine” for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume,” and you’d almost have an argument about the generational rift within the American church. The strain of change is one that all of humankind struggles both for and against. We are crafted in the image of an unchanging God, but placed in an ever-changing, inherently temporal earth. We are bent toward conservatism, but we also crave novelty—a disparity that is exacerbated when multiple generations of people commune with one another. The seemingly natural response to such a conundrum is to camp on different sides of the same lake, mutually enjoying a common resource without much need or desire to break bread together.

The appeal of such an arrangement is obvious: a homogeneous group is organic and easy to please. But while generational divisions are sometimes necessary and can be healthy, they don’t make us whole. They don’t represent reality and are by nature exclusive. The hard work of communion might mean violating the comfort that homogeneity provides and teasing out the tensions between conservation and progress—and that’s hard.

But the fruit of that difficult work is good. That work is kingdom building, and it yields is diversity—an intentional communion that makes better, less comfortable, more devoted people—in life, in church, and yes, even in the stands.


1 Comment

  1. Minus the middle section, this is a great article. But the middle section is tiresome. Trying to crowbar the hackneyed message of “we need to change baseball” by equating it with class warfare is a major stretch. Just because you don’t like two things doesn’t mean they come from the same “attitude”.

    In the larger context of the article, it’s also self-contradictory. The article argues FOR a homogeneity in sports but AGAINST a homogeneity in the church.

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