Our miscellaneous category was in need of a bit of loving, so I thought I’d pep it up a bit with a sports post, albeit one with a bit of a twist.
Now, married to an American as I am, I have been subjected to numerous years of US sports and, while I tend to get bored during basketball or gridiron football games and wander off, I do rather enjoy a good baseball game or an exciting hockey
fight match. That’s ice hockey, of course, because here in the UK hockey is usually played on a field with a ball. And in school.
But even after all this time, there are still some aspects of US sports that baffle me as a British person, and fear not my UK brethren, even if you’re not very familiar with the US sporting field, these are general bafflements rather than anything to do with rules or the complicated stuff.
So without further ado, let’s get going!
1. Welcome, honoured guests!
British people pride themselves on making guests feel welcome and comfortable. We’ll offer you endless cups of tea and plates of biscuits, and put your needs before our own because you’ve probably travelled quite a way to visit, for which we’re very grateful.
Not so with US sports, though. It’s customary in the States to introduce each player before the game, and while the home team are announced with the insane exuberance of a doped-up cartoon character, accompanied by flashing spotlights, dramatic music and even fireworks, this courtesy isn’t extended to the visiting team. No sir. They get nothing but a dismal-sounding bloke listing off their names as if he’s pissed off that they had the nerve to bother showing up at all.
Baseball announcer Geoff Blum also stated that the budget allocated to the upkeep of the visiting team’s clubhouse (kind of like a posh locker room) is usually zero. That’s no way to make people feel welcome or appreciated and, in my British book, it seems pretty bloody unsportsmanlike! I bet they don’t even get offered a cup of tea or a garibaldi when they arrive.
So welcome, visiting teams! Please enjoy our shitty facilities and total indifference to your presence.
2. Fan interference
It’s a big thing in baseball when a fan catches a ‘game ball’ – you can see fifty-year-old men bouncing around waving a ball in the air while the crowd rapturously applauds them, groups of people scrabbling around beneath the seats for that sweet game ball, and sometimes you’ll even see grown adults snatching them away from little kids.
Look at this asshat:
Anyway, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a game ball is something special. In actual fact a new baseball is used for nearly every pitch, and a single game can easily get through about a hundred balls. A large number of these end up being tossed to the crowd, so they’re by no means unique, save for the odd home run ball that won the game and which you know is going to end up on eBay.
But still, fans clamour like maniacs to catch these balls, and this has resulted in the term ‘Fan Interference’ being introduced for when some idiot reaches out to grab a ball that is actually still in play. Said idiot is then unceremoniously shown on the jumbotron while the umpires try to decide whether or not the interference altered the outcome. It sometimes does. Fans know this, so yet it still happens.
During 2011, two fans died after falling over railings while trying to catch game balls. Another fan only survived after fellow spectators grabbed onto him and hauled him back over the rail. It’s complete insanity.
So instead of going bonkers over game balls, risking a fan interference call, injury or even death, why not just go to Walmart and buy a Major League baseball? It’ll cost you about two bucks, it’s much safer, and you’re a lot less likely to look like a twat on live TV.
And while we’re on the subject of stuff flying into the baseball crowd…
3. Finders keepers
Baseballs are one thing, but every now and then a butterfingered player will let go of his bat during his swing, sending it flying into the crowd. This bat, despite being personal to an actual player, then becomes the property of the spectator who caught it / had their face smacked by it.
As a British person, this really does baffle me. Leaving aside the inevitable physical altercations that erupt between fans over the bat, it’s not their bat! How on earth did this unwritten rule of ‘anything you accidentally fling into the crowd is gone, buddy, you’ll never get it back’ come into being?
To make matters worse, if a player does want his bat back, he then has to send a representative over to the fan to barter in exchange for its return. It’s unfathomable. Do the polite thing, take it to the dugout and offer it back to the player, then if they tell you to keep it all well and good. Don’t be a dick.
4. Miscellaneous game bullshit
If you go to a football or cricket match in the UK and there’s a stoppage for some reason, it’s an opportunity for you to have a chat with your mates, or start a bit of a sing-song. It’s a time to enjoy the brief lull in the action and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet or a conversation about the game.
But US sports don’t want you to do that. If you think you’re going to have the chance to have a friendly chat in a basketball game, for example, you are sorely mistaken.
A basketball game has a playing time of forty-eight minutes, but once you’ve added in all the stoppages, the half-time break and the ten time-outs allowed (five per team), you’re looking at a game taking around about three hours to complete. And during those extra two hours and twelve minutes where no play is happening, you are certainly not allowed quiet times for a chat, a laugh and a beer. Oh no. Every time play is stopped, ‘entertainers’ come out of the woodwork, firing t-shirts around, holding fan competitions on the court, blaring music, doing circus acts for some reason, dancing around in skimpy outfits, the list is endless. It’s like attention deficit theatre. And if you do decide to have a quiet discussion with your mates, you’ll be singled out on the fan-cam and laughed at by everyone.
Even when the game is on there’s no peace and quiet, because you’re constantly being urged to shout ‘DE-FENCE!’ at the top of your voices, presumably to remind the players that that’s what they’re supposed to be doing. Perpetual thumping headaches from the sheer entertainment chaos will probably do that to players, bless their hearts.
5. Dugout mess
British people are far from angelic when it comes to litter, but at least we do try. Baseball players don’t, though. Just look at this mess:
Baseball is unique amongst US sports in that the dugouts the players use are stacked to the brim with drinks, snacks, sunflower seeds and bubblegum, and that’s nice for them because they often have to wait for long periods before they’re called upon, and probably get a bit peckish. What’s not particularly nice, though, is the amount of it that ends up on the floor. But why? I’ve seen rubbish bins in the dugouts, but I’m guessing that by the end of the game they’re completely bloody empty.
This is by no means solely a British niggle either. When the US teams travelled to Japan to play in the All-Star games, the Japanese fans and players were absolutely horrified at the state the US players left their dugout in. In a typically polite response, they said:
“The Major Leaguers made a mess like it wasn’t even a thing.”
And to them it really isn’t, because they do it all the time at games in the US.
I guess we should just be grateful that chewing tobacco isn’t nearly as prevalent as it used to be!
So there you have it, the five things that baffle me about US sports as a British person. Maybe I’m just a bit picky or perhaps it is just a cultural difference thing, but whatever it is I still enjoy a good game.
And if you ever see me on telly trying to give a baseball bat back to a player while getting laughed out of the stadium, you’ll know why!