Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bawdy Buccaneers and Christ Allusions

I have a load of other things I could, and should be doing right now, but instead I've decided to tell you lucky people about a baseball game I recently attended.

Don't you feel special?

So then!

After our Big Day of Fun in Pittsburgh, me and Tom went to the rather splendid PNC Park to see the Pittsburgh Pirates face off against the New York Mets. Tickets for the game were but $5(!), and transport to and from the game was included (!!), which is a ridiculously good deal, no?

Our journey began with the ultimate American artefact: the big yellow school-bus o' death!

We boarded this sunshine-coloured behemoth and looked around for safety harnesses as we noted how springy the seats were, and how many solid things there were to be bounced off! No sooner had we determined that a single pothole would mean certain death for anyone with a neck not made of rubber, we were presented with a piece of paper and a pencil. It was a waiver agreement! The cheeky so-and-sos were fully aware of the peril in which our lives were, and their solution was to have us sign our souls away (luckily I had sold mine away for less back in '94, but that's a story for another blog)!

I'm sure many of you will be disappointed to hear that we arrived safe and sound, and were free to marvel at the beauty of PNC Park (opened in 2001, sits 38,496 fans, built in a way to take advantage of the Pittsburgh Skyline, considered by many as the "best stadium in baseball", fact fans).

Here's a pic Tom took (with his phone) a few days previous;


Not bad, eh?

We got there maybe two hours before the game started, which was odd - so we wandered around this Stadium as though it was a shopping mall - going in and out of the merchandise shops, looking at the ridiculously overpriced foodstuffs on offer, and generally taking in the spectacle of American Culture in action! I got thirsty and went to buy a Pepsi (because there's no Coke in the whole stadium - grumble), then saw that it was $4, and my thirst disappeared! It was miraculous! (I can see how Jesus could peramble about in the desert for forty days without water now - I didn't want to part with $4, let alone everything I stand for)

In a rather bizarre turn of events, it seems that one of the Robert Morris (that's my school - try and keep up) maintenance workers (I think he's a gardener) is singing the national anthem at this Professional Baseball Game! So he does! And the RMU crowd, naturally, go nuts for him. Me and Tom are a little perplexed at first, but we forget about it once the game starts.

This is my first game, whereas Tom is a seasoned veteran (he was at a game a few weeks beforehand), so he is on hand to explain the very basic rules. I complain for the first half hour about how slow the game is, how bored the players seem, and how retarded the crowd are. Everybody sits around, drinks beer, and talks to each other, only occasionally cheering or clapping or singing once the Stadium PA system comes on and encourages some action.

(This is a shot from my seat) The players don't seem too bothered about what they're doing, and after they hit the ball, they barely jog towards the next base, invariably getting eliminated, only to shrug and continue jogging, but now towards the comfy player bench, where they can have a seat, scratch their genitals and chew tobacco.

Tom maintains that I'll get into the game once I can see past these oddities - I consider sport a celebration of human excellence, and these guys on the field are too laid-back and lardy for my liking. After it's explained to me that these guys play 3 games in three nights, then take a break for one night, followed by another three nights of games, I become much more forgiving towards their treating the game like a job.

About 5 innings in, without realising, I get a sudden surge of enthusiasm for the Buccos. Cheering, clapping and cursing to convey my approval or disapproval as appropriate. Not sure why, but I just 'got' it. So let's look at some more of the oddities about this national pastime. Before the game started, an announcement was made, reminding us that "Baseball is a family pastime, and any inappropriate language or behaviour may lead to fans being expelled from the Stadium". Yikes!

Mascots were of course, present and doing their thing, running and dancing about the place like the jesters that they are. Another interesting activity of these Mascots; they got bazookas, put rolled up T-shirts and hot-dogs into 'em, and shot em into the crowd! The same thing was done with a large slingshot - which I thought was pretty cool. There was a camera crew going around asking baseball-related questions and giving away prizes; one woman even had the opportunity to trade her prize for "What's in this box", prompting the entire stadium, myself included, to begin chanting "The box! The box!"

What else? They played music between plays, and showed videos when in.troducing the batters.
I probably should've mentioned the Computer-Generated cartoon that played before the game showing two war Galleons (one representing each team) duking it out before the Pirates eventually sunk those dirty Mets.

The game finished in quasi-spectacular fashion: the teams were tied at the bottom of the ninth(the final inning), two of our guys were struck out, and we had one last chance to finish the game and go home - our final hitter got balled onto the next base, so a fourth hitter stepped up. He hit the ball, our boy ran home, and we won 2-1. (It was exciting, trust me!)

All I learned from the experience is that Americans have short attention spans and will happily pay for overpriced foodstuffs at major sporting events.

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