A few weeks ago when I was in New York, I went to see a baseball game: New York Yankees vs Minnesota Twins. Since then, I’ve come to enjoy the sport quite a lot. I’m starting to think this must be what it’s like to be a born-again Christian or something. I’ve seen the light.
Years of scoffing at American sport (“waaaahh, too commercial, made for TV, never have drawn matches, hey, you nicked our name “football” and gave it to some sort of rugby sumo game”) washed away in one evening.
Since I found that for a small amount of money I can get live Windows Media Player coverage of all the games for the rest of the season on MLB.com, and since I’m not really sleeping that well at the moment either; it seemed a pretty good idea to sign up and watch some baseball in the early hours of the European morning.
My mate John was saying how enjoyable it is getting into new sports, and he’s right. There’s two weeks of every four years that I’m interested in random sports, and after the Olympics is over, I couldn’t care less if archery were happening in the next door flat. But for those two weeks, I love it all.
But, y’know, finding a new sport is a difficult thing when you get older. You get stuck in your ways. For me, it was and always will be football. There’s something so divine about watching good players combine to do something that makes your face light up with delight. Football football football.
I tried watching golf… s’okay. I’ll pay attention to tennis when it’s Wimbledon. Never liked cricket or rugby that much, mainly cos I was rubbish at both at school.
I spent a few years worth of Sundays watching Formula One. “Just loads of fast cars chasing Schumacher in vain” was kinda how I viewed it for a long time, but after a while I started to enjoy the monotony, and revel in the pit stops. My interest tailed off recently, what with Schumacher being so dominant, but it’s not his fault he’s tons better than everyone else, is it? And this season’s been a bit better, so maybe I’ll be back enjoying it again soon.
No sport, though, has affected me like baseball has since I was seven years old watching TV and seeing Kenny Dalglish playing for Liverpool. Baseball is great. Evenings when I should’ve been out and about enjoying New York’s nightlife, I was lying on the bed in my hotel room watching baseball (or Law and Order or Monk or repeats of Seinfeld. Maybe TV is my new sport…). It’s so user-friendly as a TV sport. Nip out of the room for a piss during a football match, and you will undoubtedly miss a goal. Nip out during baseball, and you’ll just miss the pitcher getting ready to chuck the ball again.
And the geek in me loves how many stats there are. Six different league divisions to follow; games won, lost, percentages, games behind. Stats broken down to home and away wins and loses, and even further broken down to results against teams from each division. Wild card stats. It’s nerd heaven!
I also like that I’m watching people my own age playing sport. People who shave. Not just boys nearly half my age. Last night, there was Yankees pitching fella who’s 42 years old! Forty two! That’s fantastic!
So, yep, I’m becoming a Yankees fan. I know, I know, it’s like supporting Chelsea combined with Man Utd: the big money team who can afford to buy anyone who’ve won loads of trophies lately; but they were the team I went to watch… And it was a Yankees fan that took me… And it’s not as if they’re doing great right now… (I think I’m just trying to convince myself here, huh?)
I’m still not up to speed with a lot of the terminology; but I know what RBI means, I know about Designated Hitters and the problems it causes with interleague play, and, most importantly, I know how the innings work which was something that always used to confuse me.
But still there are mysterious elements in baseball, like how the hell they work out the season schedule? 162 games, 30 teams… that doesn’t go. How many times are they playing each team?
And, something that furrows my brow every time I watch a Yankees game: what does Gary Sheffield have in his mouth?