America's pastime explained
Speaking to my new roommate yesterday, I learned that this was his first time in the United States and that he had never been to a baseball game before. This, of course, caused me to briefly consider the possibility that Boston is not indeed the hub of the universe, but I quickly convinced myself that isn't true, because otherwise God would not have nicknamed Boston "The Hub." (An obvious point many Biblical scholars miss.)
I can't imagine never having been to a baseball game before. I didn't know customs would stamp a passport for entrance to the country without proof of baseball attendance -- an old ticket stub, perhaps, or maybe a beer stain on a T-shirt. I assume that my new friend is on some sort of trial admittance to the United States pending attendance of a game. (I didn't want to ask him -- if I become embroiled in an international incident it might culminate in my compulsory attendance in a cricket match or soccer game or one of those other wimpy sports they play in countries where policemen carry sticks instead of guns.)
So now, as a service to my new roommate and all others who are being required to attend baseball for the first time, I would like to give some helpful information about the many rituals which surround the sport.
First, the basics. At the beginning of the game, the four referees (officially known as "turd-heads" in the vernacular of the sport) get together at the area of the field known as "the plate." They secretly decide how long the game will last, but don't tell anyone else. Sometimes it can be as little as five "innings;" sometimes it can be in the teens. Often it's around nine. It's one of the secrets that make the game so fun. Leaving "the plate," three of the turd-heads take up positions at "the cup," "the saucer," and, of course, "the glass." If you are displeased with anything about the game -- be it the score, the fairness, the weather, the uncomfortable
seat you're sitting in, whatever -- address your complaint to a "turd-head" and everyone will know who you are talking to. Your fellow fans will probably be yelling at them too.
Then the teams take the field. Here at Boston's Fenway Park, the team of choice is the New York Yankees. Seems strange that we root for a New York team here in Boston? Well, don't forget, this is America, the same country that overwhelmingly said, "Yes, damn it all, we want the second most powerful politician in our country to look like Potsie from Happy Days."
Anyway, before you go to Fenway, go out and buy as much New York Yankees apparel as you can find, including shirts, hats, shorts, sweatpants, socks, sneakers, boxers, bras, panties, jockstraps,
and pasties all emblazoned with the "NY" logo. Then sit in the bleachers and yell "Go Yanks!" for the whole game. You'll fit in perfectly and your fellow fans will love you for your support. Some may even strike you quite hard in the spirit of friendliness.
If you go, I suggest you sit in the bleachers. The bleachers are known for being the seats of choice among discerning Boston fans. Some helpful hints for sitting in these seats: First, the baseball game will be that thing going on in the distance, where those little people are standing. If you want to see what's happening, turn around and look at the big TV screen located behind you.
More important than the game is Bleacher Etiquette, the set of rules which ensures that watching a game from the bleachers is fun and non-life-threatening. For example, always mumble an incomprehensible apology after spilling 12 ounces of beer on the brand-new, $20 corduroy cap of a fellow patron. Always yell "heads up" before spiking a beach ball into the face of the 4-year-old girl seated in front of you. And don't forget to promptly respond "tastes great" to any rascal who dares to yell "less filling." Most important, however, is doll etiquette.
The Boston Globe's Bella English recently reported on a new custom in the bleachers. It seems that some patrons choose to bring inflatable female dolls to the games and pass them around. What wacky senses of humor! Anyone with enough class to bring an inflatable doll to a public place must be such a woman-magnet that it's hard to believe that he needs a doll in the first place.
Anyway, these genius stud-muffins pass the doll from person to person and perform lewd acts on it. It's kind of like a Madonna concert without the music. And the young children brought to the game by proud parents get to learn all about the birds and bees instead of bats and balls. So, if you're sitting in the bleachers and one of these anatomically correct dolls is passed to you, be sure to demonstrate to a crowd of 35,000 people that you are a person of taste and intelligence by getting intimate with a piece of plastic.
But there are other, equally important customs, like the seventh inning stretch, where everyone (1) stands up to stretch, and (2) runs to stock up on beer, since beer isn't sold after the seventh inning, resulting in everyone being more plastered at the end of the game than they were in the sixth inning. Then, of course, they run to their cars and sober up while sitting in a Kenmore Square traffic jam for an hour.
And finally, there is the time-honored tradition of trying to catch a foul ball (or, even better, a home run ball.) Now, while I understand the considerable excitement people have about catching a ball in a major league game, I want to let you all in on a little secret. If you do catch a ball, it'll be used. It'll have scuffmarks and dirt and sweat all over it. If you really want a baseball, they're $4.99 in the stores, folks.
OK, so I'm being a little facetious. I understand that there is a certain pride in catching a ball in a game. I used to try it in the little league park in Holyoke, MA, all the time . . . when I was 7 years old! No, no, in all seriousness, I suppose I can understand why some grown men are willing to risk life and limb to catch a small, rock-hard missile hurtling at them at frightening speed. They're trying to impress the dolls.
Bill Jackson '93 was ejected from the bleachers of last night's Red Sox-Yankees game for wearing pinstripes.
Always yell "heads up" before spiking a beach ball into the face of the 4-year-old girl seated in front of you.
More important than the game is Bleacher Etiquette, the set of rules which ensures that watching a game from the bleachers is fun and non-life-threatening.
Anyone with enough class to bring an inflatable doll to a public place must be such a woman-magnet that it's hard to believe that he needs a doll in the first place.