Bread and Circus Versus Nuts and Bolts

The New York correspondent for the U.K Independent opines on the latest symbol of the decline of the United States and the means by which voters are kept distracted (Usborne, David, “Baseball and Bombs Get the Cash — Bridges Are Just Dull,” 6 August 2007):

You don’t have to visit this country for long to see how its transport infrastructure has deteriorated since the interstate system was built by Eisenhower in the Fifties.

Never taken that pot-holed ride from JFK to Manhattan? Fasten your seatbelts for more turbulence. Or covered your ears in the screeching tunnels of the city’s antiquated subways? As for a cross-country ride on Amtrak, good luck.

Money here tends to flow towards items that make the pulse race. That would be elections, wars and that other national passion, sports. If there was a World Cup for baseball – rather than the so-called World Series in October which involves only the US and Canada – then finding decent venues would barely be a problem. Name a big city that doesn’t have a brand new, state of the art stadium it wants to show off.

Actually, that would be New York. But that is about to change. Its two major baseball teams, the Yankees and the Mets, are in deadly competition right now and not just to land places in the World Series play-off games this autumn. It’s about which of them can get their spanking new stadium finished first.

That’s right, while the Brooklyn Bridge gathers rust (yes, it is on the critical care list), somehow this city is building not one but two baseball stadiums barely six miles from each other, one in the Bronx, the other in Queens. It doesn’t matter that the teams have perfectly good places to play for their fans already. They are not flashy enough.

Increasingly circus is not merely some free-standing distraction, but conjoined to the very decline it serves to dissemble.