Wednesday, 15 August 2007

American Sport

Before arriving in the US I had made plans to see a baseball, basketball, American football game as well as a rodeo. I thought I would enjoy the American football the most but this unfortunately was not the case. Firstly when you are watching the game at home on TV it is far more spectacular than in real life, it is a lot easy to follow the ball, the tackles seem more violent and you can do something else during the breaks in action and there are a lot of them and they go on for a long time. In the last two minutes both teams have three timeouts as well as the two minute warning so progress in match terms slows and you forget the game situation and want to reach for a book. Most of the time I found myself watching the big screen instead of the action and if you do that you may as well watch the tele. The situation was not helped by the hopeless parking where there were signs telling you where each car park was but nowhere does it say that these are for permit holders only so after waiting in a very long traffic jam we couldn't park there anyway. The fans were pretty vocal which I don't mind but the stream of sexual innuendo and invective toward the cheerleaders made me wince let alone the parents of the children who were seated around us.

The baseball was much better than I expected. I had read up on it but did not fully grasp the rules or the statistics surrounding it. It is a lot like watching cricket in that there is a natural flow to the game and while there are frequent breaks none of them are too long or extended. The only issue I had was that a new pitcher would warm up in the bullpen but then also need to warm up on the mound. Why not fully warm up in the bullpen and not stop the flow of the game?The best match we saw was not at the top MLB level but at the next level done (AAA). The game was attended by about 3000 people so it was not busy, the weather was gorgeous but not too hot, for $10 we got seats 5 rows from the front behind the dugout (and could have got closer) so it was good value. The quality was good and there was the same thrill when there was a hit mixed with the fear it was coming straight for you. The stadium had a down at heel but welcoming feel and you could hear the individual comments from the crowd. There was a particularly funny keep him in, take him out, keep him out, take him in routine when the opposing manager was on the mound considering a pitching change. I also think that all outfielders should not be allowed gloves as it makes outfield catches too routine.

The rodeo I have already commented on and the basketball was okay.

Overall be prepared to be marketed at, this could be for individual feats (10 strikeouts and you get a free burger from...), races on the big screen (if the animated boot beats all the other shoes in the race then get 10% of at ...), give aways (todays free T-shirt comes from...) and through sponsorship (the big screen is brought to you by ...). This is partly the fans fault as if they did not participate and buy products the companies would not get the money and not continue to sponsorship. I will continue to boycott sponsors who create poor adverts.

Be prepared to be organised. There are around 90 home games in a season on all days of the week. You are unlikely to get the same fans going to each game so they need to be organised. Due to the distances involved there are rarely many away fans so there is no need to be out chant the home fans. Organising includes telling you when to clap your hands, shout, cheer etc. Having been to many football and rugby games where the fans organise themselves it felt a bit strange.

Hear the National Anthem get murdered. Apart from Kansas City where a 13 year girl outsang everyone else nearly all the attempts to sing the US National Anthem did an effective job of forgetting the words or murdering the tune. I am not sure that Americans need to be reminded what country they are in but could we have a taped singer to protect the eardrums (At the end of the Simpson's movie they sing the Marseilles instead).

Have your concentration broken. There are wandering food vendors, people going to get food, Mexican waves, beachballs in the crowd and interviews over the tannoy. In one baseball game the person sat next to me arrived in the third inning, was getting food in the 6th inning and left after 8. Not sure why he came to the ballpark but watching baseball did not seem to be the reason. Sometimes there are so many distractions that even I forget that there was a game of sport in progress.

In conclusion if you are in the US go and see a rodeo or AAA baseball for the best entertainment and value for money.

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