Academic journal article Nine

The House That Cultural Capital Built: The Saga of the New Yankee Stadium

Academic journal article Nine

The House That Cultural Capital Built: The Saga of the New Yankee Stadium

Article excerpt

The New York Yankees are the most successful franchise in American sports. They have won twenty-seven world championships, ten more than the next closest franchise, the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and sixteen more than the next closest baseball franchise, the St. Louis Cardinals. A list of famous Yankees players reads like a miniature Hall of Fame, featuring icons like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly, and Derek Jeter. Being the marquee franchise in the nation's largest city and having unrivaled on-the-field success have provided the New York Yankees with a tremendous amount of cultural capital. In his essay, "The Forms of Capital" Pierre Bourdieu famously describes how various aspects of culture, such as education and art, are acquired and exchanged in a similar economy to that of financial capital. Bourdieu writes, "because the social conditions of its transmission and acquisition are more disguised than those of economic capital, it [cultural capital] is predisposed to function as symbolic capital, i.e. to be unrecognized as capital and recognized as legitimate competence." (1) Much could be written about how and why the Yankees have been able to become such a dominant force within Major League Baseball (MLB), but in the interest of brevity, this paper will simply acknowledge the cultural capital that has been amassed by the Yankees franchise in order to examine how it was spent to procure a lavish new stadium for the team. (2) The New York Yankees exploited their cultural capital over the South Bronx (which has very little cultural capital), and this power dynamic allowed the Yankees to build the monumental stadium they wanted while avoiding any substantial concessions to the people of the Bronx.

The New York Yankees' cultural capital is directly related to their financial capital. The team is the richest in baseball, with annual revenues over $300 million. With the advertising revenue of their own cable TV network, $117 million in gate receipts, and $30 million in licensed merchandise, the Yankees are able to afford the highest payroll in MLB. (3) This means they can afford to outpay any other team for the best players in the game. The star players and continuous championship expectations acquired with their financial capital add to the treasure chest of cultural capital the New York Yankees have been building upon for over one hundred years.

Discussing the interplay between economic capital and the other forms of capital, such as cultural capital, Bourdieu observes,

It has to be posited simultaneously that economic capital is at the root of all the other types of capital and that these transformed, disguised forms of economic capital, never entirely reducible to that definition, produce their most specific effects only to the extent that they conceal ... the fact that economic capital is at their root. (4)

The New York Yankees have an extraordinary amount of economic capital with which to do business, but their ability to attract star players and lucrative media contracts cannot be simply reduced to their cash flow. Though the Yankees' cultural capital is rooted in their economic capital, it produces its most specific effects by concealing that the mystique of star players, championship trophies, and Hollywood screenplays is rooted in economic capital. The original Yankee Stadium embodies the team's cultural capital. On the surface, it is simply a building where the successful franchise has won many games, but it has developed its own cultural cache over time, concealing the enormous amounts of economic capital invested into the team and the stadium itself.

Yankee Stadium was opened in 1923, during the prime of Babe Ruth's career. It has since been commonly referred to as the "House That Ruth Built," because the incredible number of fans who would pay to see Ruth play provided the franchise with much of the capital needed to build the new stadium. …

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