Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Magic of Baseball

Capture the Magic – a Baseball Lesson in American Values

Having recently attended my first professional baseball game, I hereby offer the life lessons gleaned from the spectacle known as America’s pastime. Although the experience had little to do with the actual teams, for the sake of reference, the Los Angeles Dodgers hosted the San Francisco Giants. For those of you who, like myself, thought the Dodgers played in some eastern seaboard state in the 1930s, let this be a lesson in baseball history. They most likely at one point played on the East Coast, but were sent to Los Angeles, as the term “Dodgers” better describes a people who live in a city known for drive by shootings, narrow misses on the freeway, and the lifesaving action you must take as an unassuming fan sitting in the cheap seats, narrowly escaping free-flying projectiles tossed by drunk angry fans.

Armed only with such historical knowledge, I begin my educational exploration into the magical world of baseball. Shifting between neutral and first gear for the hour drive from the entrance to an unassigned parking space, I pass topless men painted a bright, Dodger blue, jumping and screaming into a television camera. It dawns on me that baseball may have morphed from my movie-enhanced memories of the crack of a wooden bat and the smell of a freshly mown field into this concrete jungle, replete with natives speaking an unknown language. And that perhaps clogging ones pores with blue paint number 64 has negative, lasting effects.

Magnanimous soul that I am, I refuse to pass judgment until I have fully experienced my first professional baseball game, and join the throng of fans to mistakenly spend another hour in line for an ATM which spews obscene amounts of money so that said fans then stand in an even longer line to purchase the celebrated Dodger Dog. As those around me engage in a game of who can scream the loudest at their errant children, I ponder how a sport defines a nation, a people. England = Rugby. A fierce people who require no protective gear, prepared to take on the world whilst sporting color coordinated shirts with a dignified white collar. Brazil = Futbol (also known as soccer, for rebellious Americans who hold a blatant disregard for the metric system or any structure the rest of the world may agree upon.) A group of well-organized athletic people with amazing agility and no feeling in their foreheads, they have found the real meaning behind sports and life: win or lose, there’s reason to party. Scotland = Curling. A jolly and innovative folk who, after fifteen pints of laager, realize the brilliance and simplicity found in using a broom to push a hunk of metal across a mostly frozen body of water, and that old Collin McMurtry, he’s a handsome devil.

Having made it to my seat by the 5th of approximately 127 innings, I observe what defines America’s national pastime: sporadic action highlighted by consumerism, scratching and screaming. And that’s just the fans.

As the opposing team takes the outfield, the inebriated folk closest to left field start cheering, and for a brief moment I am swept up in the crowd mentality, ready to belt out my own off key “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The shining stage spotlight dims; they are jeering a creative chant, “Barry Sucks!” Looking toward the field, I notice the object of their attention stands rather unperturbed, perhaps confident in his .370 average, 46 homeruns, and 110 RBI.* The fans are distracted only when a bright shiny beach ball bounces into their laps, or as the vendors step on their screaming children to better hawk their wares. Calorie-laden treats fly through the air; the only effort necessary is to field the airborne ice cream sandwich and cherry coke. This extremely difficult aspect of the sport of spectatorship demands respect for the years of training involved; the amazing dexterity required to catch the flying food without taking your eyes from the riveting action…Hey! Did that woman miss her cue in the wave? Let’s chant! “You suck!”

And, never to be underestimated, the stench of capitalism that permeates the stadium, the players, and the fan still trying to find his seat after an overly boisterous wave.
Twelve dollars for seats near left field.
Forty-five dollars for a Dodger Dog.
Seeing grown men paint their bodies blue and bat at beach balls…

*Numbers and initials located on ESPN.com, writer not responsible for misrepresentation of figures she knows not the meanings or definitions.

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