At the ballpark: assessing and evaluating the national pastime

I do apologise, dear PTSD readers, for whetting your appetite for the ultimate baseball experience news and then leaving you for the weekend. RL and commitments to family (which included taking an obese dog on a walk it didn’t want to go on and during which it ended up running away and then jumping into a stream. All of this, including the stream part, with me in close pursuit. But that’s another story) intervened but I’m back to provide yous with details of the match on Friday. The Washington Nationals played the Chicago Cubs. Since so many things occurred during the event, this post might be a two-parter.

First, let me get this out of the way (and start off by pissing off all you baseball fanatics): if anyone ever says that footy is dull and boring, I’ll refer them to baseball. Baseball, apart from a few minutes of what seemed to be sixers and people being caught, was almost soporific. The crowd, even compared to a regular DC United match or a Caps game, seemed to be half-asleep. There were no subtle insults at the opposition, there were no shoutings of “hijo de puta” (among other things) at players, there were no no dig at the opposition players and supporters. Actually, and rather surprisingly, there wasn’t much noise at all, apart from the tannoy. For something that’s the national pastime, it was all quite quiet.

But, I’m getting too far ahead of myself. Let me start with what made it the national pastime. I got there nearly an hour before the scheduled start time. The road from the metro to the stadium, which during footy matches is packed with people all shouting at each other or in groups, was filled with families (usually Mum, Dad and kids) or couples or groups of boys. I counted about 7 groups of boys in the ten minutes I sat on the steps of the National Guard building and watched people. Oh, and since we are being all colourist these days (a lingering remnant of my cross-cultural relations classes), the crowd was oh-so-white. I’ve not been to an American football match yet (and I think even a free ticket wouldn’t be enough to tempt me to one) but the other two sports I’ve seen here--ice hockey and footy--have had a far more diverse, in terms of ethnic groups, crowd. This crowd was overwhelmingly white. Even Northern Denmark had more colour-based diversity than Friday’s baseball match.

The folks who were there had mostly dressed up in their team’s colours. I had done my part by wearing a red t-shirt. One good thing (apart from actually having a fun sport to watch and obsess about) about having supported Liverpool for most of my life is that I have a lot of red shirts to choose from. However, as most of them are LFC jerseys (with Carlsberg prominently printed on it), I felt they wouldn’t work for baseball (see? Who says I never think about clothes?) So, a plain red t-shirt for me. I realised I'd been overthinking about rejecting my (many) Liverpool T-shirts when I saw other folks wearing Boston Red Sox jerseys, random red shirts (including one with the Flash on it), a Portugal footy jersey or red shorts (with t-shirts too, of course). I even noticed a bloke wearing an Arsenal jersey and one with E’s home town’s name prominently displayed (on a grey t-shirt. E, does your hometown market its own t-shirts? If so, I want one too!).

Then, there was the food: somehow, RFK, a place not renowned for its cuisine in the many times I've been there, had been transformed into a site of many food stalls and even proper, good beer. Maybe I had been missing something by not coming earlier during DC United matches? Our usual pre-match entertainment during those consists of meeting up in the car park (since only one of my friends has a car) about 3 hours beforehand, setting out grills and beers, talking to folks around us about a) why there is so much fuss made of Freddy Adu, b) European/South American leagues and c) the weather and only making our way into the stadium just before kickoff. Even the couple of times I’ve been to DC United matches alone, I’ve usually turned up just before the match began. The baseball match was completely different in that I was there quite early, had a red carpet treatment (the organisers had laid on a red carpet) and got my red hat (which I then proceeded to clip on to my bag and forgot about during the “Cap Wave” session). The entire downstairs area, just after the turnstiles, smelled like hot dogs and fries.

More in Part II since I have not yet figured out the intricacies of how to create a hyperlink "below the fold" or "continued after this" type thing.


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