Sunday, October 28, 2007

observations on an american pasttime...

When I first moved to the US, I didn't understand the attraction of baseball. It seemed like a boring, tedious 'sport' in which a group of men stood around quoting statistics and spitting a lot. Sure, I'd been to couple of baseball games in Canada with friends who explained the rules. I smiled and nodded a lot and enjoyed spending a bit of time with friends, but had no concept of why the game might be in the least bit exciting. Or why it classified as an athletic activity.

Since I moved to the US, I have been to many ballgames, mostly taking BART to the Oakland A's with a group of friends. I came to really look forward to these games - they were cheap excuses to have a beer, learn something new and see people really take pride in the town. The Oakland fans are fantastic - they represent the enormous cross-section of the East Bay, covering every colour, socioeconomic class and age. Everyone is out to have a good time, and realizes that the more you cheer, the more fun you have. It made me feel part of the community. The A's didn't do particularly well when I was there - though they did beat the Red Sox once, which was fabulous for all us A's fans who were outnumbered by the Sox fans in the stadium. Much gloating ensued - we had to take advantage of the moment.

However, while I was peripherally aware of such things as the World Series and League Championships, I have never bothered to follow them. I have to admit, I can never remember whether it's the National or American League where the pitcher has to go to bat. (I just know that I think everyone should have to - that's the whole thing about the game.) Going to the games is one thing, but watching on tv or reading the abysmally-written sports section of the paper is a whole different experience. Until this year.

I should explain: I just moved to Colorado - technically a few months ago, but really a week and a half ago. And yet, in this week and a half, I have become viciously proud of the Rockies (our baseball team, not the mountains. not that the mountains aren't beautiful and something to be proud of, they're just not Colorado-specific. Contrary to what many Coloradoans - or is that Coloradoites? - say.). The Rockies were the unknown team - I've only seen one game - they did well, and it seemed a surprise to the fans. The Rockies are in an odd position, literally: with the high Denver elevation, the physics of the game changes. Balls go further and faster, so the field is bigger. Apparently the baseballs have to actually be kept in a humidor and brought out immediately before they're played so that they work in the same way as in lower elevation places.

So the completely unknown underdog Rockies made it as the 'wild card' in their playoffs - that's the we-don't-have -enough-finalist-teams -so-we'll-randomly-throw- in-another -team-and-watch -them-lose team. So the Rockies swept. Kicked ass. Shocked everyone - including their fans and themselves. You can't help but cheer for them - expected to do poorly, but pulled it out with some beautiful plays. And yes, here's where you realize that this game is actually a sport - some fast running, serious hand-eye coordination and the ability to swing a piece of wood at a ball that's approaching their face at 90 mph. There's a reason they wear helmets.

Okay. So they've lost their first three games (winner is best of seven games) to the Boston Red Sox. But the Red Sox are a big team in the baseball world - lots of money, a massive city and posh New England region behind them, and non-baseball fans have heard of them. (hard not to considering how obsessive their fans are, constantly where their caps everywhere). But I'm still cheering for the Rockies. I don't care if they're losing. They represent the underdog who pulled through. Not to mention the rural mentality versus the urban elite, who occasionally need to be taken down a notch or two. And, while the players aren't necessarily from CO, so I don't quite understand why they become the local team (but that's my general complaint about professional sports in general, and a different topic), they have instilled a pride in Colorado (with the notable exception of those people who lived in Boston, and have become part of that avid - dare I say, annoying - fanbase).

And, perhaps most importantly, cheering for the Rockies has become a good excuse to have a beer and nachos with friends...

1 comment:

Andy said...

I'm glad that those trips to dollar night at the Coliseum had an effect! (Also that you're opposed to the designated hitter. All thinking people should be.) Although it's unpopular with my in-laws, I'm rooting for the Rockies too, but in my case it's really just so that the Series isn't such a foregone conclusion.

... although as I type this, it's 3-0 Sox in the top of the 7th, so it's not looking good for the home team. Here's hoping the Rockies come back and we get another game at Fenway!