An 'American' pastime: further musings on the baseball match

What made baseball a truly American sport, in the Huntingtonian Who Are We? sense, was not just the hot dogs and fries or the replicable families (I gave up counting after the 23rd set of Older Female and Male/young children combos), but especially the pre-match celebrations. We had various (rather out of tune) songs sung by the United States Army Chorus including something that went along the lines of “proud to be an American”. The songs during the match itself included Sweet Caroline--to which most of the crowd sang along and even did the dum-dum-dum bit--and We Will Rock You. Pre-match festivities also included firecrackers and, wait for it, an F-18 flyover (with six planes). During the singing of “God Bless America” (which preceded the American national anthem), a huge United States flag was unfurled. It covered nearly half the field and was probably visible from the moon. Or, at least, from the International Space Station.

But, wait, there's more: the “ceremonial first pitch” was by a US Army veteran who seemed to have lost one or both of his legs (I was sat too far up to see clearly though I’m pretty sure he had one prosthetic leg) and was making his way about on crutches. What could be more 'American' than an Army vet and baseball?* The biggest difference to DC United here? No children on the ground (except an 11-year old kid who yelled out "play ball" to start the match proper). Pre-match activities for DC United usually involve the mascot (a Screaming Eagle) and loads of kids. Other “American” bits? A Presidents’ race (more on that later) and random "cams" on the big television screen (Cap wave cam, smile cam, etc). I can just imagine that going down well during a Tri-Nations cup rugby match.

A couple of funny parts during all this: the announcer (who was very loud, even compared with regular on-field announcer-types) kept on telling people “please remain standing for…(national anthem/God Bless America song/ceremonial pitching)” as though we had to be told to stand or else we wouldn’t be able to figure out what was supposed to be the “right” reaction. He actually said this more than once (perhaps in case we forgot we were supposed to be standing up?). Another observation was that the ushers all stood with their caps (red) on their chests (they were wearing green shirts) during the singing of the anthem. All of them. I suppose that’s part of the job description?

My pre-match experiment had been to go around to some of the ushers in the section below mine (I was sat in the highest possible section--in the 500s--a section that is not even open for footy matches, I think) and ask them this --pointing to a random guy practicing on the pitch--: “So, do you think his bum looks big in those trousers?”. After a bit of confusion and explanation the first time I tried this, I amended it to “So, do you think his bottom looks big in those pants?” or “Those pants show off his legs quite well, don’t they?”. Of the seven ushers I talked to, five laughed (and a couple agreed to my latter statement) and the other two looked at me as though I was slightly daft. All of them, except one, asked if I had seen baseball before (it’s the accent, damn it!) but were very good natured overall. Rather surprising, really, since I can’t see Premiership or Rugby folks being as nice. I should probably clarify that I didn’t ask them this right away--I started off with various less silly questions about the weather, the number of people, the last match they'd seen, team prospects and so on and then slipped in the trousers/bum/legs question.

Yous will have to wait for Part II** to read of PersonWhomIGotTixOffFrom (PWITOF) and Mrs PWITOF getting excited about random inexplicable events during the match and PWITOF singing along (with sound effects and hand-waving) to Sweet Caroline. Also, stay tuned for more on the “Presidents’ Race” where people dressed up as past US Presidents ran along the track. I’m not quite sure what happened on the pitch really but more on that in Part II as well.

* Yes, I know, lots of things may be "more American" if one could measure American-ness. This is merely a rhetorical question. I don't require an actual answer, thanks.

** Part Three.


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