Om Sweet Om

ny-yankees-logo.jpgThe New York Yankees, World Series champions yet again, are preparing to have 50 tons of confetti dropped on them. Yes, Math Wizards, that would be 100,000 pounds of little, tiny bits of paper. On Friday, the champions will be honored with a ticker-tape parade down a stretch of lower Manhattan that has been poignantly dubbed the “Canyon of Heroes.”:

Fans are expected to begin gathering early in preparation for the
ticker tape parade, set to begin at 11am. The parade route will move
through the “Canyon of Heroes,” beginning at the Battery (the
southernmost tip of Manhattan), heading up Broadway and concluding at
City Hall. About twenty buildings along the Yankee parade route have
been supplied with shredded paper

as actual ticker tape was retired from use by the NYSE in the 60s. The
city estimates a cost for the Yankees victory parade similar to that of
the Giants’ Super Bowl parade in 2008, around $330K. All but $24K of the cost was covered by private donations. 

(source: The Inquisitr)

Even before the Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies to clinch the title, and even in the midst of a heated mayoral race, NYC Mayor (and gazillionaire) Mike Bloomberg made it a point to clarify that he wouldn’t dream of New York not having the ticker-tape parade if the beloved home team won — bad economy or no:

The Bloomberg administration won’t jinx the Yankees by prematurely
planning a ticker-tape parade – but City Hall says it would be a smart
event to hold in a tough economy.

“We always find a way to honor our teams, but we don’t discuss plans beforehand,” mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser said.

city’s last ticker-tape parade honored the Super Bowl-winning Giants in
January 2008 and cost $331,000, all but $24,000 of which was covered by
NYC & Co., the city’s marketing arm.

costs don’t count the expense of staffing it with city workers – a
figure Loeser said was unavailable – but was justified by the economic
boost and national exposure New York will get from the World Series.

(source: The NY Daily News)

So, at the risk of being the unpopular one to rain on this ticker-tape parade, might I suggest that when a city is willing to spend upwards of $400,000 to throw 100,000 pounds of paper on top of men for winning a game, there is something a tad bit wrong with this situation?

Before I go any further, let me clarify: I am not now, nor have I ever been a Phillies fan. (And, nope I’m not a Red Sox fan either.)

I’m just a people-watcher who commutes on a NJ Transit train from New York City (where they bleed blue for the Yankees) towards Trenton (which is dangerously close to Philadelphia). My stop happens to be Princeton, uncomfortably stuck in the middle. And from this unique vantage point, here’s what I’ve observed over the last few days: a good number of grown men and women suddenly defining themselves more by the team logo on their jerseys and caps than by the person within that apparel.

I root for the Yankees because they represent my hometown, because they are my
team, because — on some subtle level — they are an extension of my
ego, my chance to vicariously enjoy the fruits of victory, even.. or
perhaps, especially… at the expense of putting another team down. When I
raise my obscenely over-sized foam finger and call out “We’re number
one!” I really mean to say, “I’m number one!”   

Suddenly, being a Yankees of Phillies fan is not just a preference; it was an identity.

Hinduism has a term for that sort of identification with an external label or designation: its called an upadhi.

Most of us go through our lives layering upadhi upon upadhi. Thus when asked “Who are you?” I can answer with a bunch of nifty labels and categories: I am Indian, American, black, white, young, old, thin, fat, male, female, straight, gay, conservative, liberal, writer, firefighter, banker, baker, blogger. And, of course, I’m a Yankees fan.

Okay, so what’s so bad about a label? Nothing, of course. Except that the basic foundation of Hinduism (and much Eastern thought) is aham brahmasmi, I am spirit.

Each upadhi might be true enough to one extent or another, but there’s something about the real me — the me that transcends World Series after World Series, and even transcends the particular body I happen to be in — that is eluded. Or perhaps buried under so many upadhis that we might not be able to locate it. The real problem with an upadhi is that in helping me build up a temporary and relative identity, it robs me of the precious opportunity to become aware of my actual one. 

Sound harsh? Well consider this: twenty some odd men ran around on a diamond-shaped pasture and manipulated a 5 ounce combination of cork nucleus, rubber, yarn, and polyester in such a way that they bested another group of twenty some off men. Most of us will never met those forty men or come anywhere close to physically replicated what they did. But on the basis of it we experience pride or shame, we are elated or depressed, we dress in a certain way, buy certain products, numb brain cells to commemorate the thrill of success (or to assauge the wounds of defeat).

And yes, we spend $400,000 to throw 100,000 pounds of paper on those heroic extensions of ourselves.

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