Friday, November 06, 2009

Tale of the Ticker Tape

A decade ago, while working as a reporter in Connecticut, I was driving through some small town on my way to some forgettable assignment and listening to the news on the radio.

The Yankees had won the World Series and New York was going to give them a ticker tape parade that very afternoon.


I’m not much of a sports fan, and I usually root for the Mets when it comes to baseball, but it just killed me to be sputtering around the back roads of East Deer Tick when my hometown was throwing such a huge bash.

"What am I doing here?" I whined within my old Toyota. "I should be back there."

Well, today, I got a second chance to see the Yankees parade down the Canyon of Heroes. And it was certainly worth the wait.

My office is on Broadway, overlooking the parade route and, after a little hustling, I got to see a good portion of the show without facing the cold or the crowd.

And the crowd was unbelievable. I know it’s New York, the Big Apple, and, yes, Toto, I know I’m not in East Deer Tick anymore, but still the number of bodies amazed me.

I looked out the windows to Dey Street on one side and Fulton Street on the other and both were crammed with more people than there were in many of the towns I had covered. But then there are probably more players on the Yankees than in many of the towns I’ve covered.

It was weird seeing the streets I walk on every day suddenly choked by such much humanity. I don’t know what, if anything, the people in the back of these crowds saw, but I hope they had fun.

I crammed into a corner office on the sixth floor with a bunch of my co-workers and watched the parade from the safety and comfort of our workplace—which we rarely associate with safety or comfort.

We got to talking about ticker tape parades and one of my colleagues told us how he saw the ticker tape parade for the astronauts who landed on the moon.

"That was…40 years ago,” he said, a little surprised by the number.

Wall Street gave up ticker tape a long time ago, but judging by all the debris flying through the air today, I'd say we’ve got a long way to go before we reach that paperless society I’ve been hearing about since the fifth grade.

It looked like a blizzard going on out there and rolls of toilet paper kept sailing through the air like low flying artillery rounds. Somebody was tossing some stuff that actually looked like hay, which made me wonder how they got a horse into an office building.

I saw Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter, but I needed help identifying some of the others. Whenever the crowd roared I knew it was somebody big. Fortunately one man had brought his 10-year-old son, who sported a Yankees cap and shirt and was able to set me straight.

I saw one guy on a flatbed truck with hair down to his rear-end who periodically crank his head back and forth and whipped his massive do like a samurai sword. I don’t know what he was doing there, but he’s probably in a neck brace now.

I was told that Rudy Giuliani showed up and I’m happy to report that he didn’t take credit for the Yankees’ win. Knowing his tyrannosaurus ego, I was surprised he didn’t get all Kanye West and grab the trophy for himself. Oh, by the way, Bernie Kerik couldn’t make it.

I saw Reggie Jackson, who was looking rather old, and then—ugh!—former Mayor Ed Koch, who was looking even older.

“The first ticker tape parade was in 1886,” one of the executives said, reading the information off his computer.

“Yeah,” I said, “and it was in honor of Ed Koch.”

Actually, that’s not true. The first ticker tape parade was a spontaneous event that occurred during the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. Ed Koch was just a kid then.

The parade broke up and eventually I drifted back to the desk, but I heard shouts and cheers for most of the afternoon.

By the time I left the office, the people had moved on and the only evidence of the parade was the portable barriers that had been set up for crowd control.

The nearby bars were clogged with Yankee fans who didn’t feel like going home. There were knots of them hanging out in front of the local dives.

Some of them were feeling no pain, as the expression goes, and navigating around them was a bit of a chore, but it sure beat driving the back roads of East Deer Tick.

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