On Saturday night I spent $100 for a seat at the biggest American culture love-in since Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Danny Glover opened Planet Hollywood on George St.
There were overpriced burgers, hot dogs and baseball caps, but instead of eating these items at a tacky Hollywood-theme restaurant, they were consumed at the opening game of the Major League Baseball season between Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
And after three hours of baseball and nine beers I came to the following conclusion: People love the concept of baseball; the game itself, not so much.
When you watch nine innings straight, in which there are only four runs scored (two of which you miss because you’re trying to line up to buy $18 nachos in a plastic baseball cap), and not much else, you realise that comparisons between baseball and cricket are completely unfair. Baseball is far more boring.
Firstly, pretty much f*ck all happens. But if it does happen, it doest really matter because Major League Baseball teams play 161 regular season games a year, so the result in a single game barely matters when taken into account over the season. If the Australian cricket team played 32 Tests a year, most people would stop caring after the tenth consecutive Test win over Bangladesh.
Luckily most people at the SCG weren’t there to watch the game. Instead they were there to mainline American culture. And baseball is the purest hit of American culture money can buy.
Ignoring the fact the game is almost exclusively by Dominicans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans, the whole user experience at the ballpark is like being at a theme park based on 1950s America.
There is so much stars n’ stripes, hot dog eating and old-timey American imagery and pageantry during a game of America’s Pastime at the ballpark that you half-expect the 6th inning entertainment break to feature Hulk Hogan riding into the ballpark on the back of a Bald Eagle singing the Star Spangled Banner.*
Judging by the lines to the merchandise stores and the American food kiosks (I twice failed to buy the 60cm hot dog, so was forced into buying a meat pie), the 40,000 plus baseball-capped heads at the SCG were overdosing on Americana like John Belushi on a trip to Mexico.
Just like drugs go in and out of fashion, so do cultural trends… and like MDMA and high school students, American culture is #trending.
Not so long ago it was a different story. A little more than ten years back the USA was regarded as the bully superpower, fighting two unpopular wars and generally copping shit from people like the French for being a bad hegemon.
But in the past few years, the US seems to be going through a post-George W. Bush renaissance. With the election of Obama and a shifting of geopolitical circumstances, the crowd seems to be firmly back in the US’s corner, rooting for the yanks. We seem to no longer care about past indiscretions and in Australia at least, we are embracing the US in a tight bear hug not seen since the days Harold Holt wanted to go all the way with LBJ, whatever that meant**.
Indeed, you can’t walk through a inner city small bar without eating burgers, chili fries and Miller Genuine Draft, or being coward-punched by a patron wearing an old-school NBA jersey.
None of this is a bad thing. It’s just a thing. And The Public Apology likes to comment on things. In fact, this writer likes baseball and, in particular, the forensic analysis that goes into the minutiae of an apparently simple game.
But calling the Dodgers/D-backs game in Sydney “The Best Sports Event Since The 2000 Olympics” – as some have – is just plain incorrect. It also overlooks the many amazing events that this city has witnessed in the past 14 years, most notably the round 16 game in 2013 between the Wests Tigers and the Melbourne Storm that was played out in front of a crowd of 5,288 at a rain-soaked Leichhardt Oval.***
By Ben Shine
*Instead it featured Australian athletes singing Take Me Out To the Ballgame, including Mitch Pearce – the sight of whom still makes me shudder at thought he will most likely be picked for State of Origin YET AGAIN. Why must this man continue to interfere in our lives? Please leave us alone.
**Perhaps Holt’s disappearance was a high-risk sexual game gone awry? This is ripe material for erotic fan fiction.
***The Tigers won 22-4.