Getting booed at your own graduation usually isn’t something to smile about, but for me a self proclaimed member of Chris “Mad Dog” Russo Anti-Yankee Crack Committee, it was a moment I’ll never forget. What a way to celebrate the first and last college commencement at Yankee Stadium than to get to speak on Diamond Vision—in a Red Sox hat.
With Washington Square Park, the traditional site for New York University’s Commencement, under constructions NYU was forced to move the 176th Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2008, out of Washington Square Park and into Yankee Stadium. While it was said to be a neutral decision because the Mets were at home, many were hesitant at the idea at graduating in the home of the “Evil Empire”.
For a school like NYU that has had an undefeated football team for some 50 years now (since they last played a game), sports is rarely at the forefront. That wasn’t the case on Wednesday, when even President Sexton replaced the traditional Cap with a Yankees Cap.
As Michael Strahan, who would receive the Lewis Rudin Exemplary Service Award for his contributions to New York City, first began to walk in from the outfield; no one seemed to notice him hidden in a purple gown. That was until he reached the Sports Management section. As he passed by our section right behind Third Base, we began to shower Strahan with “One More Year” chants.
One of the more embarrassing moments of the ceremony came when Strahan came up to accept his award. After an introduction that brought memories of the Super Bowl run back to Giants fans minds, President Sexton introduced the Super Bowl Champion as Michael “Stray-hawn.” Ouch.
As Strahan addressed the graduated he called on them to look to the Giants season as inspiration. "Live your life. If there's ever a story to learn, it's my story, and the story of the New York Giants …That perseverance and all those things will carry you through life, and you’ll never know where you’ll end up. Do you think I ever thought I would end up talking to you? Absolutely not!”
Strahan wasn’t the only sports recognition of the Day. Ironically two of the other speakers selected were both Red Sox fans, again to the dismay of the crowd.
One of those Red Sox fans Laurence Tribe, recounted some of the great moments in Yankee stadium from Lou Gehrig to the recent visit from the Pope, bringing some significance to this the only commencement that has or will ever take place in Yankee Stadium.
One student even had his own interactive sports moment as he removed his pants under his gown and began to round the bases on the field. Drowned out by cheers he made his way around third, heading for home, until he was speared by a security guard and quickly cuffed and removed.
Still my crowning moment was appearing on the diamond vision getting booed by the Pro-Yankee Crowd. A few weeks prior to Commencement I had been approached to be part of a video tribute to the class of 2008. When I saw that one of the questions would be to explain a favorite experience at NYU, the master plan began unfolding in my mind.
Once before I had been booed loudly in Yankee Stadium, wearing a Giants jersey on the day Barry Bonds hit that moon shot into the Upper Deck. Still, as the video began to play on Wednesday I began to embrace myself for a stadium full of boos.
“My favorite experience at NYU was to intern for a baseball group that represents someone Yankee Fans know well ‘Big Papi’ David Ortiz.” As I threw on the Red Sox Cap the fans showed their dismay for my allegiance and some began to turn around and point me out in the crowd.
Even President Sexton, maybe trying to recover from his misstep, ended his congratulatory remarks with baseball.
He explained how baseball was God’s Game and offered one final test for the graduates of 2008. He explained how Barry Bonds in 1992 became the 10th person to win back to back MVP awards. He explained the significance that Bonds became the final outfielder to win back to back awards filling out all the 10 positions including a pitcher.
As the final test he challenged the graduates to name the other 9. For a student body whose Basketball teams nickname is the Violets, it’s a good thing all of them had already received their diplomas.
As the ceremony ended and the platform party began to file out NYU offered me on last memorable experience. As Strahan walked back toward the outfield, we caught his attention again as he made his was over to our sections.
I was able to exchange a handshake with Strahan. He congratulated me on graduating, but more importantly, I was able to thank him for bringing me my first ever Super Bowl Championship. What more could you ask for?