Another glorious baseball season is upon us — ah, I can smell the sweet scent of money drifting through the morning haze — and my unlikely sympathies go out to the fans of New York, who are doubly taxed to help sustain the boys of summer.
Their state tax dollars are at work, in perpetuity, to help pay for the new Yankee Stadium.
Their federal tax dollars are at work to help prosecute Barry Bonds.
(Speaking of which, General Electric — that most American of corporations — reported more than $14 billion in profit in 2010. Couch Slouch — that most American of slackers — reported nearly $50,000 in profit in 2010. So who paid more U.S. taxes? Well, I can’t divulge my exact figure — from his prison cell, my CPA has requested an extension on my filing deadline — but I can tell you it exceeded GE, which paid absolutely nothing in federal taxes. It’s nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try to jump through huge loopholes with well-heeled lawyers.)
Outside of certain pockets of San Francisco, nobody much likes Bonds. In all likelihood, he used illegal steroids during his playing career and, in all likelihood, he told an untruth about it to a grand jury. Which left prosecutors and the public two options in dealing with it:
1. Spend millions upon millions of dollars in federal money trying to prove that he lied.
2. Put a mental asterisk next to his home run total.
Like most reasonable, tax-paying citizens, I’m in favor of the asterisk — only I’d make it a REALLY, REALLY BIG one.
(How many home runs did Bonds end up with, like 1,300? It was a REALLY, REALLY BIG number — heck, for a couple of years there, he was hitting homers in his pajamas.)
But the government decided to devote its considerable efforts to pursuing the home run king. The criminal justice system, one might think, has more critical matters with which to deal, like drug trafficking, money laundering or Charlie Sheen — I mean, how is Bonds in court and Sheen isn’t?
U.S. attorneys have now spent nearly eight years building a case against Bonds. Eight years? LOOK AT HIS HEAD — there’s your case.
Anyway, if he’s convicted, I hope Bonds is sentenced to five years of hosting a daytime talk show with Stephen A. Smith.
Meanwhile, back in the Bronx, the new publicly funded Yankee Stadium — building palaces on the backs of taxpayers is the latest American dream — is in Year 3. Naturally, most taxpayers can’t afford to visit the stadium they subsidized, but they can gaze at it from time to time on TV, assuming they can put out for a premium cable package.
(I’m devoting 2011 to my “No More Stadiums, With Or Without Tax Subsidies” Tour. I will shout as loud as I can from the cheap seats that the Age of Excess has to cease. Which brings us around again to Charlie Sheen — in 1996, he and three friends bought up an entire section beyond the leftfield fence in Anaheim Stadium in hopes of snagging a home run ball during a Tigers-Angels game. Rather than, say, buy the tickets for disadvantaged kids who couldn’t get there otherwise, Charlie purchased 2,615 seats so he and his buddies could have their own personal playground to catch a dinger. I’d call that a bad sign of the times to come.)
This Yankee Stadium, you may recall, cost about $1.5 billion, more than half paid in taxpayer subsidies. Actually, it’s hard to pinpoint a precise cost of the stadium, because even years after it’s completed, the price keeps going up.
Of course, everything at Yankee Stadium keeps going up — tickets, parking, concessions.
In 1996, a box seat at the old Yankee Stadium cost $25; in 2011, just to park your car at the new Yankee Stadium costs $35.
You can’t believe how much a PBR costs there — it’s so obscene, I won’t reprint the figure here.
(Budget-conscious Yankees fans just walk to the stadium and then listen to the games on radio adjacent to the parking lot while drinking a six-pack of Pabst they brought from home.)
Of course, those who can afford to go inside Yankee Stadium often are treated to seeing great Yankees like Roger Clemens, who, incidentally, is next up in court for supposedly lying to Congress about alleged steroid use. What was he thinking? Nobody lies to Congress, other than congressmen themselves.
Q. You love criticizing bad announcers, but you’re a bad announcer yourself — aren’t you throwing stones in a glass house? (Paul West; Humble, Tex.)
A. I live in a basement apartment.
Q. Given John Calipari’s record, should Kentucky save time and just forfeit its Final Four finish? (Skip Hyberg; Derwood, Md.)
A. That paperwork already is being processed.
Q. If Clark Kellogg had been broadcasting games in 1888, do you think Van Gogh would have cut off both ears? (Jesse Ellis; Alexandria)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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