Whether you're a fan or not, baseball brings Americans from all walks of life together
My wife isn’t a baseball fan. She has a general idea of whom the players are, but doesn’t follow the sport, and gets annoyed if it’s on television a little too much. But, she likes going to live baseball games. It’s exciting, there’s bad food that tastes great, everyone’s in a good mood, and it’s a very social environment. A ballgame makes for a great date. You can pay more attention to your partner at the game, unlike at the movie theater.
That’s the thing about a baseball game, the sport is paced in such a way that we can all have conversations with each other, laugh with each other, and argue about stuff that doesn’t offend anyone. I may not like the Red Sox, for example, but that doesn’t mean I have anything against Boston or anyone who lives there. It’s just the team. It’s only the moment. It’s the safe release of the natural aggression that gets pent up in all of us.
There is a connection between us all at the game. Like it or not, we must interact with each other. Maybe we’re hardcore fans polishing our latest heckles. Maybe we’re a family going together. Maybe we’re a couple of fans of the away team, sticking together against the home crowd. Maybe we’re somebody who doesn’t know a thing about baseball, but we’re out with friends regardless, having a good time and enjoying a beautiful day.
Naturally all sporting events provide this to a certain degree. But baseball is more conducive to a social experience. The game starts slowly and gently, picking up speed and tension as it goes on. The ending of a good baseball game is an exhilarating thing, even if you don’t follow the sport. A wave of emotion sweeps over everyone, reminding you that you aren’t alone. For a few moments, you forget everything plaguing you, and there’s only fun, only excitement.
Human beings need contact with one another. We are social animals and desire a greater connection to other people, whether or not we want to admit it. We need a place to feel united, not divided. And even when we are cheering against each other at the ball game, we are all still part of a greater pleasurable experience. Baseball is a game that encourages you to speak to the people around you. As a society, Americans are becoming more and more isolated, but it’s nigh impossible to feel lonely at the ballgame. Baseball can even introduce you to friends.
I spent ten years in a city that wasn’t home to the team I love. Shortly after my arrival there, I was challenged over my Yankees hat. But it wasn’t someone chiding me, this guy wanted to know if I was really a fan or if I was just wearing the hat to be cool. A couple questions were all it took to prove authenticity. Keith became not only one of the first people I met in Toronto, but remains one of my best friends in life.
As it turned out, we had plenty in common. We both worked in the restaurant industry, both shared an off the wall sense of humor, and were both avid collectors of baseball cards, video games, jerseys, and action figures. Baseball introduced us, and baseball is how we solidified our friendship. Going to the game became an event, an all day party. It was our therapy.
This year I will be going to Opening Day with another good friend of mine. You would be hard pressed to figure out why we are friends without baseball. We are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to political ideology. We work in completely different fields. Our family histories and backgrounds are varied in just about every way.
But we connect with each other through the sport. During the game, none of our differences matter, not even a little bit. He is a fun guy, knows his stuff, and we have a great time. That’s all that matters. There is no division, and we are literally on the same team. I’m really looking forward to seeing him again. It will be a fun day.
America is not as divided as you think it is. You need only go to a ballgame to understand why. Yes, there are some loudmouths, a few douchebags, and whackos making you wonder what medication they’re on, but those folks are everywhere in life. The ballgame makes you realize just how much of a minority they are. You see the bigger picture, and have time to scan the crowd and see that most folks are good people.
Don’t put weight into what ignorant jerks say, sooner or later, the rest of us will turn on them. I’ve seen it time and time again; when someone’s making an ass of himself or herself, those wearing the same jersey will call them out. It’s an embarrassment to the majority when a few people presuming to represent all of us shut down the game with boorish antics, running out on the field, having to be escorted out by security, or what have you. Throw the bums out and play ball. Let them showboat in the streets, not hold up the whole works.
If those on your side can be jerks, it stands to reason that just because somebody is cheering for the other team, it doesn’t mean that they are a bad person. I have had some fantastic conversations with fans from the other team, both when we are hosting them, and when they are hosting us. Manners and courtesy still go a long way. A polite fan is a well-received fan, no matter what colors they fly.
Etiquette is integral to the baseball experience. Seasoned fans know not to stand up unless everyone else does; not to leave your seat until the side has been retired; and not to swear too loudly or too often, as there are children present. This is “baseball etiquette,” and it’s there to enhance your enjoyment. Consideration for others is viewed with honor.
Baseball is America’s National Pastime. There is a petition circling looking to make Opening Day a holiday. That should happen. We could all use a day where we just go to the game. Watch your teams play for you. Chat with your family, your friends, and fellow human beings. Put aside that which divides us, if only for a few hours. Get outside. Connect. Breathe. It’s therapy, whether or not you like baseball.
A fan’s experience at the game is an allegory for what American life should be. Some of us cheer one team, some of us for the other, and some of us don’t care. We watch a game played by people we won’t interact with on a personal level, but we feel we know them anyway. There may be disagreement among fans, but there is still civility. The loud and impolite minority is not important, and is quickly reprimanded by those they claim to represent. Courtesy is more important than boorishness.
It doesn’t really matter what team you cheer for, we’re all here for the same game. No matter the day’s outcome, there’s more baseball tomorrow. When it comes right down to it, we want to enjoy the day, enjoy life. Baseball gives us this chance, and that’s therapy for us all.
Happy Opening Day, everyone!
“There is no room in baseball for discrimination. It is our National Pastime and a game for all.” ~ Lou Gehrig