Baseball. Basketball. College football. The atmosphere at America’s favourite sports matches is legendary. I was determined to soak up the excitement at least one of these iconic American sports while in NYC. It was baseball season when we were in town, so we grabbed cheap tickets to see the New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox at Yankees Stadium in The Bronx. Two iconic teams, thousands of diehard fans and one age-old rivalry.
I was warned that although the atmosphere was awesome, that the game itself would be long and boring. I’m don’t follow any sport apart from tennis grand slams, but I figured that with armed with a hot dog, the company of my boyfriend (and his sports explanations) and my camera, that I could stick it out for a couple of hours.
I needn’t have worried – as it turns out, I have an inner baseball fan which has been dying to get out. I was totally hooked!
We took the D train from Bryant Park to Yankee Stadium, which took about 20 minutes. We arrived after the start of the game, which doesn’t seem to matter too much with baseball, except that we couldn’t be bothered getting to our proper seats. Our row was book-ended by many truly enormous Americans so we just got seats a few rows back in an empty row. The rules are easy to pick up, especially if you were forced to play T-Ball in primary school. The game was so easy to follow that before long I was explaining to David what different numbers and letters on the board meant! Statistics is a really big thing for diehard baseball fans, and I saw quite a few guys sitting in the bleachers making detailed notes in notebooks. Sports betting is illegal in the state of the New York (Victorians would hardly survive!), so I’m not sure if they just really get a kick out of knowing the stats for their favourite player, or what the point of that is.
The lines for food & drinks were blissfully short, so we got hotdogs and a bucket of chicken with chips – mostly for the novelty of getting a bucket of chicken. Because David paid with MasterCard he also got a free litre of Pepsi. Who drinks a litre of Pepsi?!
The hot dog was basic but yummy but the one piece of chicken I had made me feel sick. Probably not surprising given the circumstances.
The innings are quite short, and in between each there’s entertainment that would only fly in the United States of America. There was the usual crowd cam zooming in on fans desperate for their five seconds of fame, many of whom would be caught on camera, thanks to the five second lag, flailing their arms around like those giant balloon men you see at car dealerships to try and get attention. There were a couple of proposals, and I’m not sure that all of them said yes. There were many long-winded, cringe-worthy (sorry) birthday messages flashed up on the big screen and a song or two. There was a pre-recorded tape of a Japanese baseballer trying to teach the Yankees how to pronounce a baseball term in Japanese. American baseball is huge in Japan. My favourite part was when the guys dressed in white who sweep the field danced to YMCA with their brooms while they swept.
American entertainment has an eager, childlike enthusiasm that would never stick in Britain or Australia – it would elicit eye-rolls, not whooping and cheering. It’s very cheesy at times, but I have to admit that the boundless, shameless enthusiasm was kind of heart-warming. It’s like no one is embarrassed to be totally cheesy and what we’d described as “lame” at home, which is kind of sweet.
Just as my attention was starting to wane, we were distracted by three boozy fans making total asses of themselves. The beauty of being a foreigner was that I didn’t have to feel embarrassed on their behalf and instead could appreciate the entertainment value of watching two mugs forget that it’s just a game. (None of these pictures are of them!)
Dumb vs Dumber
It started with two young guys a few seats in front of us, who were hurling insults at each other. I couldn’t make out everything that they were saying, but the general gist seemed to be that one guy was a Red Sox fan, and was getting paid out for it. It seemed like they were angry, till I realised they were wearing matching Yankees jerseys, were laughing half the time, and were actually paying each other out by suggesting the other was actually a Red Sox fan. (#InsultOftheCentury).
When I was in America I often thought people were arguing, until after a few minutes I could make out that they were just having a normal discussion or even joking around with each other. People were so loud that everyday conversations sounded like heated arguments half the time! One night I woke up terrified in our hotel in New Orleans because I thought there was a massive brawl happening outside our room but it was just ecstatic fans coming home from a football game. I was relieved to realise that these Yankee fans were just messing around.
Eventually, an actual Red Sox fan had enough of hearing insults about his team, and he stood up to put them in their place. Under the pretence of taking issue with their swearing, which his children were hearing, he began to put them in their place…by insulting them and threatening violence.
Um… yep, definitely can’t let your children overhear a few mild swear words, but definitely teach them how to drunkenly threaten strangers with violence at a game.
I should clarify here that I don’t think acting like a violent, drunk Neanderthal is okay. It’s irritating, embarrassing for the people who are with you (who will try their best to look like they don’t know you) and it disrupts the game for others – so it’s also selfish. It’s totally unacceptable behaviour. But, if you’re going to get your view of the game interrupted by morons, it’s better if their behaviour is so ridiculous it’s actually funny.
When I wasn’t worried they were going to come to actual blows and start a huge fight in our section, it was a little bit funny. It was like watching Homer Simpson having an argument with himself.
It went on for a long time, and I could only understand about half of it because of their super thick Boston and New York accents and because they were all slurring.
Mostly, it was the drunker of the two Yankees fans who was agreeing that a fight would be a brilliant idea while the other sat back and hurled smart ass comments across the section. The middle-aged Red Sox fan’s face was starting to turn as red as his bright red shirt and matching bucket hat (yes, matching bucket hat. No shame).
If we’d arrived on time and taken our assigned seats we’d have been right in the middle of the arguing drunks. It was definitely funnier from the safety of the top of the section. I was a little bit nervous, but also holding back giggles. David was in hysterics.
I was a bit worried they would actually start fighting, as was most other people in our section. Half of the other spectators told them to sit down and settle down, and the other half were face palming in embarrassment. I don’t know why we were too worried, neither of them had the agility to climb across a row of seats.
Eventually, the drunker Yankees fan was pulled back into his seat by his girlfriend, who I hope was planning his imminent dumping once they left the stadium. The other Yankee was having no problem winding up the Red Sox fan on his own, which culminated in the following witty repartee before the cops rocked up and kicked him out:
“Eh whatever, you an asshole!” The Yankee fan smirks at the Red Sox fan from across the section.
“If you don’t shut up I’m gonna come over there and remove you FROM. YOUR . SEAT.” RedSox puffs up his chest. “You wanna fight me? You shut your mouth or I’ll come over there!”
The Yankees guy put up his hands in surrender, but couldn’t help adding “Okay, but you still an asshole!”. He howled with laughter as the Red Sox fan exploded.
Yankees guy got kicked out, and the Red Sox fan made a big show of waving them goodbye with a gleeful “Ta ta!” while thanking the officers, blissfully unaware that he was obviously next to get the boot. The look on his face when the officers asked him to also leave was a little priceless. Was he that drunk that he thought he genuinely wasn’t part of the problem or just stupid?
My guess is the latter. Besides, everyone around him was pointing at him, making sure the officers escorted him out too – he was easily the bigger threat to everyone’s safety, riled up and ready to fight anyone who disagreed with him. The Yankees fans were immature and annoying, but otherwise harmless. The Red Sox fan was big enough, dumb enough and drunk enough to cause actual trouble.
He eventually was let back in, but I didn’t see the Yankees return. Peace returned to our section, and our focus went back to the game. The Red Sox were victorious, but the Yankees put up a good fight.
The game was great and the fans were entertaining but the best part of going to the baseball was that I surprised myself. There is nothing about baseball that suggests I’d enjoy it – cricket is apparently a close equivalent, and I can’t stand the sport. Who would have thought I’d enjoy baseball so much?
It wasn’t the first time I’ve learned something new about myself while I’ve been travelling. I hate swimming and fish freak me out but I adored snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and in Vanuatu last year. Another activity I planned to tolerate but ended up loving.
Both times a new environment and fresh opportunities have encouraged me to give something new a go, and I’ve been delighted with the results. Already being outside your comfort zone helps you take the extra few steps, but you don’t need to be on the other side of the world to discover something new about yourself.
I’m trying to bring the “give it a go” attitude home with me and am on the lookout for new things to try in Melbourne. I’m paying particular attention to things I’m quick to dismiss as “not for me” without really knowing much about them. Who knows how many other fans and enthusiasts I have just waiting to get out?
What is something you’d like to have a crack at before the end of the year?