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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Foreign Devil

N-Dodgers.jpg OBODY COULD HAVE predicted what happened; least of all last of all me? It had everything weighted against it, coulda bet your house against it: congenital scots allergy to batting games <-check->, which remind us of most-hated cricket, Game of Empire; the compulsive naming and counting of everything <-check-> so bizarre and confounding to aliens of wizened intellect and a deep-seated loathing of numerical precision and anything vaguely statisticy; the ranks of welfare billionaires <-check-> steeped in city taxes who'll charge you ten bucks for a packet of peanuts; the allness of the all that's gone before <-check->, the lore and the mythology so familiar, so intimately held, but of which you hold no part at all; the sport of it <-check->, and a man long-bored and disenchanted, even of his favorites?

It happened by stealth, really: a side-effect of an immigrant's Duty - or of any foreign visitor, for that matter - to sample everything of value to his adopted culture. Which is to say, anything his adopted country holds in high esteem. I must go to a Ball Game!, said me, savoring the term "ball game", made familiar by a thousand movies, all seeming to feature Walter Matthau, but never yet directly experienced - Go to a ball game, sing the song, and eat yourself a Dodger Dog!

It helped that we had very good seats - three rows back from first base that first season, then four rows back from home plate the next - and a generous employer with season tickets? That we sat in such seats, and for free - how cruel that must appear to lifelong followers and fans up there four tiers, in the clouds? Best seats saved for the ignorant, the merely curious, for sales guys and their marks? I would have been happy to sit anywhere, but it happens I sat near the front at the back, if you see what I mean, down at the field where the players are life-size and the colors most keen.

I had few expectations of my first visit - I had no real interest in the game after all, and both television coverage and Sports Bars count as strikes against it - but, but... ah but: being there is different. You may argue that attendance live and in-person at any sporting event might enamour one of it? But I answer No, quietly, for not even following my father chase Nicklaus and Trevino and Player and others round Gleneagles Open one year could endear me to golf as a spectator sport? And not even laying one rare sunny day lazily supping of beer with my friends, as one ought, could cheer-up cricket in my eyes? So no, it doesn't always work that way. It is easy to observe any game played live, and take away home with you naught but a tired behind?

In sum:

  • I had no idea what they were doing, or what was occuring;
  • I couldn't make sense of the scoreboard;
  • I didn't even know all the words, 'till my blessèd wife pointed to fifty-foot scriptage.
  • But I loved it. Every damned minute. Stayed to the end of the ninth. We - "We" - beat the Diamondbacks that day.

"Here it is. This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you
hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got that?!"
- Bull Durham

That is such a lie: let us forget, for an instant, the two-hundred page rulebook of this "simple game", and set aside the elaborate scoring and counting of errors and whatnots on the official dual-row multi-column scoreboard that is just begging for trouble, you ask me? Set that aside and Forgive me, please, for remarking: it is not permitted for sports to be simple in America. It just cannot happen. No matter how simple or trivial the rules of a sport, its devotees and commentators will contrive to complicate it? They will enhance it, expand it, enmesh it in numbers, befog it with names for every event, real or potential - knuckleball, curveball, breaking ball, slider, change-up, four-seam two-seam split-finger fastball - Just THROW the damned thing already! I could list for you now, now I can two years on, a hundred different names of things without breaking sweat. All of them most of them betchya counted and tabulated by somebody for every game or for every player. That whole metasphere of jargon and statistics, intimately familiar it seems to every wee american boy, is horrendously daunting to the foreigner. This was intimated many, many years ago - before I first married, even - when Channel 4 introduced NFL American Football to british audiences on a weekly basis? I still do not know what a feching "shotgun" is? But football is childsplay for the novice when compared to baseball. Really.

My wife - my Goddess of the flashing eyes, bless her - she knows the ins and outs! She knew and knows every answer to the penumbra of stupid baseball questions I have pestered her with. What's that do? Why'd that happen? Why'd he walk? Why wizzat a Double? She knows all of this because she made it her business, as a young lass, to learn baseball that she could better oppose her sister, who was at that time (still is, I think?) an avid Dodgers fan on account of some boyfriend or other? My wife was a Yankee, that being her idea of a Dodgers most-hated enemy at that time. Today she would probably be a Giant if that were still her reasoning - although I discovered last season she still has a soft spot for Yankees? But we're all Dodgers now, on account of two reasons: first, I'm new, obviously, but strongly of the opinion that one ought support one's local team come hell or high water? An old scottish failing, I know, but a good one. The LA Dodgers - or, the Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles as they prefer to be known - these are my local team, closer by some fifty miles than the Angels. Secondly, it's Dodger tickets we are given. Could be Kings or Lakers tickets, too, but I'm still afraid of basketball.

RogDog.jpgAnd so it's the Dodgers. Oor team.

I like the stadium, I confess - but I haven't seen it renovated yet - and I kinda sorta like the team? The only player I know by sight is Gagné, little frenchie winner that he is, and only one or two others by reputation or association? So I'm not big on the who's-who of my team. Besides, they change the rosters like nobody's business - who, I ask, is supposed to be able to keep up with that? But the Dodgers Organization, the corporate conglomeroso - they can go shaft themselves! They make it very difficult for honest folks to give them the time of day? Dodger Stadium is Rip-off City, but then again, what concession-fueled plaza isn't?

And, to my very great disappointment after much prospective hype, I discovered that Dodger Dogs are rubbish. Just another concession-stand hot dog. Meh. My wife had built them up as fabled in my mind before our first visit - and perhaps they were one time something other, something inspiring? But those days are clearly in the past. Just another foil-wrapped lukewarm hot dog. Nothing special. This has led me to wonder, to ponder stroked-chin, whether there might not be some universal human condition at work here? Might it be that I misread the Dodger Dog story? That Dodger Dogs were never, after all, supposed to be a cut above the rest? That they were instead to Dodger fans as Greasy Pies and Bovril are to scottish soccer fans? We love them, we worship them, because they are so foul? It's part of the fitba' experience: mutton pies never dressed as lamb - mostly sheeps heid I expect - and peppered beefy Bovril, a kind of thick beef jus, drunk as tea, whose consistency in the jar is rather like mollases? I don't think we're allowed Bovril in this country? Probably, like haggis, considered unfit for human consumption or somesuch? Anyway: Dodger Dogs == Pies & Bovril.

Watching a sport played live may be thrilling, but I never expected to find myself watching a game on television? Hitherto, in our house, my wife or myself will change channel the instant a baseball game appears. Until late in last year's season that is - before the play-offs. One evening stretched vacant on the couch, I uttered "Switch it back! I was watching that!" to my shocked remote-controlling belovèd. Completely involuntary: I had no idea that I was watching it, really, until she switched over?

But that was that. "I was watching that!" Out to Target that very night and bought myself a computer game, too, that I could better get to grips with the monster. I love computer games, therefore I now love baseball.

And now, like any other moron, I'll watch baseball on the telly when I can. Not often these days, I admit, but the urge, the willingness, is there.

True to form - now following the story of every other team I've ever supported - I mention the Dodgers winning streak, they begin to lose disastrously.

That's my fault, Dodger fans. And we have ticket for next week.

* * * * *

Finally, as is traditional here in the Xenoverse, I will point you to other blogs that suddenly had the urge to write about the same subject as me, but didn't take all week to write the post:

  • Norm, in Washington, takes time to watch the Nationals while calmly tearing apart some ridiculous dictator-loving lefties, give us all a bad name;
  • Turns-out Sullivan and Karl Rove were there too. What a geek. Here in LA we see real celebs, if not perhaps this week entirely...
  • TP - but then, he's always writing about baseball;
  • A ton of others, all propelled and energized by the new Washington team.


Blogger DarkoV said...

Wow! Lovely little picture there. "Donnie DarkoV" in the background and some large-footed descendent-of-Yeti bongo-tapping balding goateed guy standing on (what seems to be) the pitcher's mound at Dodgers Stadium. Appreciate all that work. I'll have to trim the goatee, ot perhaps transfer goatee hair to top-of-head hair.
Oh, and the feet. I do promise to wash them or saunter down to Mary Magdelene's Foot Washing Emporium, located right there at the corner of Easy & Forlorn Streets.

11:35 AM  
Blogger DarkoV said...

PS. Regarding your being a Dodger fan... You noted that you stayed until the end of a baseball game. Di you also arrive in time for batting practice? And if not that earlyu, at least in time to see the first pitch? If so, then you are a BROOKLYN Dodger fan in spirit. An LA Dodger fan woul dnot be caught dead being at a game until the 3rd inning and they'd be cruising out by the 7th inning, at the absolute latest.
While BoSox fans despise a Yankee fan, they still respect them for their passion (and early arrival and late departure). LA Dodger fans are considered dilletantes, people who need constant disposable entertainment possibilities.

But then, this is the East Coast just belching 'cuz the weather sucks....

11:43 AM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

To paraphrase our National Anthem, stolen by you colonists and turned into a chintzy song, "That picture, 'Tis of me.."

Er, "God save the Queeeeen."

We stayed to the ninth only on that first occasion, it being first and all? We are most dilletantly LA Dodgers fans - gotta miss the traffic, a two-hour nightmare that blocks the 'Five twenty miles both ways.

12:00 PM  

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