Once again, I’ve been hit hard by the reality of living in a baseball-less country. Just when I start to forget, the fact that people here know nothing about baseball slaps me in the face. It’s not a regular slap, it’s a B*tch-slap. You know, the kind of slap that hurts your ego more than it hurts your face. Kind of like the slap that the Yankees handed to the crack-induced-self-proclaimed-psychic Jimmy Rollins. Yes, I’m still going there.
I’ve managed to surround myself with a close group of American friends who follow American sports. Baseball, of course, is our main common interest. Four of us are Yankees fans, three are Mets fans, two are Angels fans, one is a Braves fan, one is a Dodgers fan, and the last of the group is a Cardinals fan. I have friends from other baseball backgrounds, but these people are the ones I hang out with every day.
Surrounding myself with fellow baseball enthusiasts makes me feel like I’m back home. It makes me forget that I live in a place where no one knows the beauty of a first pitch, or the passion that keeps us going through 9 innings. What happened today reminded me.
I was sitting in a coffee shop at the Mall Of The Emirates yesterday (that mall is mind-blowing) with a colleague of mine from work. He’s a fellow American who is just as passionate about baseball as I am. He’s a Mets fan, so we were exchanging banter. It was mostly me making fun of the Mets, after all, he can’t help but tip his hat to the World Champions. We moved on to discussing Hot Stove issues. Where players will be next year, what different teams should be aiming for; you know, the regular November topics of conversation.
A middle-aged man sitting at the table next to us decided to interrupt our discussion. “Sorry to interrupt,” he said, as though an apology would make it any less annoying, “but I couldn’t help overhearing you discussing sports. I’m a huge sports fan”. His heavy Australian accent didn’t sound too promising. “What sport are you talking about?” he continued to ask. I told him we were discussing baseball, to which he responded with the three-word sentence I absolutely despise: “Cricket is better”.
At this point, it took every ounce of strength in me to hold myself back from throwing my BlackBerry at his head. How dare he tell me that cricket is better than baseball? This man must be insane, or smoking crack. Or maybe he’s just Australian. Who understands those Australians anyway?
I stared at him blankly for a few seconds. You know, that blank stare that the cast of The Office give to the camera.
This man, however, has no excuse for knowing nothing about the game. They have baseball leagues in Australia, I have several friends who play there. Granted it’s not a particularly popular sport down under, but for someone who claims to be a “huge sports fan”, you’d think he’d know about his country’s sports leagues.
My colleague and I decided to take a deep breath, calm down, and explain to him about our beautiful sport. We explained everything from innings, to rotations, to lineups, to defensive positions, to bullpen management. We took it step by step, and were careful to include all the details suitable for beginners.
I then proudly proclaimed that my team, the New York Yankees, are the World Champions of Baseball. I then continued to explain the playoffs to him, as well as the structure of Major League Baseball. I thought about explaining the DH rule to him, but decided that it was too soon, because then I’d have to go into explaining pinch-hitting which would lead to pinch-running, and it would all get too messy for him.
He listened intently, asked a few questions here and there, leading us to think that we got him interested. Yes! We recruited one!
We did everything short of busting out the charts and pie-graphs. We even drew a sketch of a baseball field on a napkin so we could explain base-running and defensive positions. After we were all done with our presentation, the man shrugged and said “I still think cricket is better. So are rugby and soccer”.