On Friday, November 6, hundreds of thousands of New York Yankee fans got the chance to applaud their hometown World Series heroes with the parade and ceremony in lower Manhattan, celebrating along the Canyon of Heroes on Broadway and on the nearby streets under a sunny sky.
Like many others I arrived too late to see any of the parade, but I did get to enjoy the moment with the crowds gathered in the chilly autumn weather. The diverse fans arrived from all the boroughs and from places even farther away, but they all shared today's required uniform of navy blue and pinstripes. Many grew frustrated when they couldn't see anything at all and turned around to go home, while the lucky ones up front applauded themselves for arriving hours before parade time at 11 a.m..
They got to see Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Mariano Rivera, or any of the others, standing on floats and waving to the crowd, dressed in their street casuals, even as everyone in the crowd along the sidewalks looked suited up for a game.
At some point I turned home, electing to see the rest of the parade and ceremony on television in a warm living room. I was glad I had gone downtown just to be a part of the moment, but I was equally happy to have a better televised view of Mayor Bloomberg's ceremony at City Hall. When the Mayor started passing out the ceremonial keys to the city to every member of the team and to each of the many other members of the Yankees organization, however, the ceremony grew somewhat long and tedious, like it was a high school graduation.
Fortunately, the show improved when the Mayor announced a reprieve of the performance from Game 2 of the series - Jay-Z's stunning new city anthem, "Empire State of Mind." No one seemed more happy than the Yankees themselves, who judging by their enthusiastic reactions to the song during Game 2 and during today's performance have taken the song to heart.
"Empire State of Mind" is not simply Jay-Z's response to Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" but a coda of sorts. While Sinatra's song (words and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb) speaks of the aspiration of making it in the city, Jay-Z's song is about the aftermath of success. He also sees the world differently as a native, someone with a homegrown attitude, in contrast to the Sinatra song where the perspective is of someone moving to the city with a degree of innocence. Now at the pinnacle of New York society, the mogul reflects back on his origins in Brooklyn (Jay-Z grew up in the Marcy Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant), as well as offering words of caution for others who get caught up in the chase for fame in the city.
Success is a head trip that can just as easily set off a downward spiral into drugs and immorality. If anyone could relate to this message of a successful rapper and businessman who is said to be worth about $150 million, then it would be any of those multimillion dollar players standing and watching behind him. Yet, the song is full of love for the city, offering the dream to everyone - "These streets will make you feel brand new. Big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York." That's Alicia Keys singing the chorus. For many, this Yankees championship season and this song will always be remembered together.
For more about Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind, Part II, please read this post.