Experiencing a full day in New York City can be like living through an episode of 24. There is a palpable sense of urgency to every move. Perhaps the future of civilization is not at stake as you race up and down the subway stairs, but you sure don’t want to miss anything.
From Brooklyn to the Bronx, last Sunday was that kind of day for me. The purpose of my visit was to spend time with some family and friends, but I found myself swept up in the multinational magnificence of the New York City Marathon and the hometown heroics of the Yankees in the World Series.
I was among a million spectators lining the marathon route. My spot was on Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn, about eight miles into the race. The whole neighborhood was out on the sidewalks, from seniors leaning on canes to babes in arms. Before the runners arrived, a dad lowered his year-old son onto a faint blue line in the middle of the street to let him try his first steps where the soles of Alberto Salazar once landed.
First to come up the street were competitors in low-slung wheelchairs. Unable to run, the fastest would nonetheless power their machines to the finish line in fewer than two hours. Throughout the day, other runners with disabilities came along, including a young legless man who moved forward on crutches and a single prosthetic post.
One of the residents hired a deejay to provide musical accompaniment to the cavalcade of runners. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” announced the arrival of the elite women, with Britain’s Paula Radcliffe running proudly in front. The top men were next, Morocco’s Jaouad Gharib pouncing into the lead as Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” roared out of the speakers. For the next several hours, there was a constant flow of marathoners-42,000 in all, including 20,000 from foreign countries-and the songs kept coming. “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” as Italian and French runners blew kisses to the crowd. “Walking on Sunshine” as a Brazilian tried to high-five everybody on the curb.
“NYPD-18 miles before you go 62 Zebra,” the deejay shouted to some running cops. “62 Zebra” is code for the end of the tour. Long after the winners hit the finish line in Central Park-Meb Keflezighi becoming the first American to win the men’s race since Salazar in 1982, and Ethiopia’s Derartu Tulu pulling away from an injured Radcliffe-the beat went on. There were still some slowpokes on the street, including a juggler and a man carrying a model Eiffel Tower, when it was “62 Zebra” for me.
In a month’s time, on December 6, the first Santa Barbara International Marathon will put a smaller crowd through the same 26.2-mile distance. Race director Rusty Snow said this week that 45 states and 11 countries are represented in the sign-ups to date.
Sunday night, I headed up to 161st Street in the Bronx for a rare treat. The new Yankee Stadium was open for people to watch the telecast of Game 4 of the World Series on a large video screen above center field. Most of the 10,000 attendees were diehard, blue-collar fans who probably couldn’t afford regular-season tickets, much less World Series seats.
It was a great game. “Let’s go, Yankees!” the crowd chanted in the ninth inning, and when their boys staged a brilliant two-out rally for a 7-4 victory, the exultation was overwhelming-certainly louder and more joyous than at the game in Philadelphia, where Yankee fans were far fewer.
I called Bill Connell, Carpinteria’s Hot Dog Man and a huge Yankees fan. The New Jersey native had spent many a day in old Yankee Stadium-which loomed like a tombstone under a full moon across the street from the brightly lit new ballpark-in his youth. Bill was crying, and not from the onions he was chopping up. His Yankees had come to the brink of their 27th World Series title-“the greatest team record in sports,” he said-and they would have two chances this week to finish the deal in the Bronx.
GAMES OF THE DAY: Santa Barbara will be a happening place on Saturday, November 7. Runners will be flocking to the waterfront for the News-Press Half Marathon, starting at 8 a.m. at Leadbetter Beach. Later that day, the Mission City Brawlin’ Betties, our own roller derby team, will jam against Ventura’s West Coast Derby Knockouts at the Earl Warren Showgrounds at 5 p.m. And the “Little Big Game” in high school football matches Bishop Diego and Carpinteria. They will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at La Playa Stadium.