Tuesday, July 9, 2013

As American As Apple Pie

Well, the Red Sox are in town this week, so you know what that means. I'm off to Safeco Field for some baseball. 

Now I'm not a hardcore baseball fan, by any stretch of the imagination. During the regular season, I rarely watch a game on TV. I don't keep up with the standings. Heck, I don't even have a favorite team. 

But still, I love to go to the ballpark - any ballpark - because I love the way Americans love baseball. Watching what goes on around me at the ballpark reflects quite a bit about life in America, and I find that very interesting.

For example, baseball fans are prompt. Americans value precise scheduling and prompt time management, and those traits are perfectly clear at the ball park. Even a full hour before game time, fans can be seen streaming into the park. 

Tickets to a major league game aren't cheap. The best seats in the house are well over $100 each; even the outfield bleachers will run you $17, which is still several dollars more than a movie. It's a testament to our love of the game that even in lean economic times, Americans are willing to shell out good money to go to the park. 

Oh, the food! I could go on forever about the dizzying array of tasty treats available for sale at the stadium. Of course, one can always find hot dogs and beer, and the proverbial peanuts and Cracker Jack. But there is more, so much more, to eat at the ballpark. Garlic fries and cheeseburgers are two of my favorites, and I'm not alone. Americans love to eat anywhere and everywhere, and the ballpark is no exception.

When it comes to kids, American culture can be full of contradictions On the one hand, we love them, sacrifice for them, turn ourselves inside out for them. But at the same time, we often segregate them and put our lives on different tracks. Day cares, schools, churches, shopping malls, even vacation resorts all offer special programs for kids that take them away from the adults in their lives, and splinter their families. 

Not so at the ballpark. It's one place in America where grandparents and grandchildren, parents and kids, aunts and uncles and big packs of cousins can all be found sitting together in a cozy row of seats, laughing and enjoying each others' company. I think that's great.

A major league ballpark in America has a variety of seating options. Grandstands, upper decks, box seats, or right behind the dugout, each seating style has its aficionados. But for me, the bleachers are the only way to go. On most evenings. there's plenty of elbow and leg room to stretch out and relax. And best of all is a sunny summer's evening where we can bask in the warm golden light of the setting sun. The bleachers are kind of like the beach of the ballpark, and my fellow Americans share the love.

Americans have an affinity for grass. We lavishly plant it on our lawns, our city parks, and along the edges of our streets. We fertilize it, water it , and mow it just so. The ballpark may be the high holy place of grass, where groundskeepers practice the fine art of grass design that fills us all with wonder.

How about some dessert? Americans love sweets, and there are plenty to be found at the ball park. Cotton candy, ice creams, soda pop and long red licorice whips. Eat up, y'all.

Baseball, more than most other sports, is a game of numbers. RBIs, ERAs, home runs, and win/loss records are all part of the language of baseball, and any decent fan can spout a litany of statistics. This numerical passion is such an American sort of obsession - we love our facts and figures, and we love to measure, compare, and compete in all walks of life. 

And while I still love the old school vibe of a quaint, low-tech field, there's no denying that major league baseball has become considerably more glitzy and glamorous in the past few decades. Big screen amusements between innings, fireworks for home runs, and pop music blasted from the loudspeakers - all of these add-ons reflect the American mainstream quite accurately. We Americans like to be entertained, and we definitely get plenty of show business at the ballpark.

So here's to baseball, the all-American pastime that shows us our true American selves

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