Monday, March 31, 2008

An Introduction to Baseball





No, this is not an April Fool’s Day joke – and don’t you dare click away from Linköpinglivin’.

You knew this was coming one day and, now that it is clear that a majority of the Linköpinglivin’ readership is Swedish, this is your opportunity to give baseball a chance.

C’mon, do it for me – just pretend for a moment…

Imagine a warm summer’s day in a big city in the United States. The work week has finished, morning is passing by and a family of four or longtime college friends or a couple on a date or a group of international visitors are heading out to a 45,000 seat stadium to “take in a ballgame.” There’s not a bad seat in the stadium, hot dogs and drinks-of-choice have been purchased, the players run out on to the field, everyone stands for the National Anthem and at it’s conclusion, the umpire (referee) yells “Play Ball!”

For the next three hours, time will stop, conversation will be plentiful, occasional excitement will ensue, minds will wander, families and friends will laugh together and hopefully the home team will win. This is America’s game. Despite the recent popularity of American football, baseball is and always will be our "National Pastime."

And today, every year on the second Monday of spring, is what’s known as Opening Day, that beautiful day of the year when the baseball season has just begun, and there is a whole spring, summer and part of fall left to be played to determine the World Series champion – and Europeans in particular love that we call it the World Series!

As usual in describing the rules of a game to a new audience, any explanation sounds fairly degrading and childish, but here goes:

1) Each team tries to score more “runs” (points) than the other.

2) To score a run, a batter must advance to all four “bases,” the last one being “home plate” where the run is scored.

3) Each team has 9 “innings” or sets of chances to score runs before making three “outs,” which is what the defensive team is trying to get to stop the runs. Everything depends on whether and where the ball is hit when the pitcher has pitched it.

4) You have 2 parts to every inning – one for the away team and one for the home team.

5) After 9 innings, whoever has the most runs wins, unless it’s tied then you play as many innings as needed to determine the winner (“extra” innings is similar to overtime and my very favorite part of baseball).

Easy enough, right?

Famous and legendary teams are the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago Cubs and a few others. I see Yankee and Dodger hats all over Europe, but I know enough to know that the Europeans wearing these hats have no idea who Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Sandy Koufax or Derek Jeter are (famous historical and current players).

Many people, even most Americans, make fun of baseball because “there is so much standing around.” It is said that in a three-hour baseball game, there is actually only 10 minutes of action. But that’s just the point! Baseball may be the last part of American society where it is acceptable, okay and even embraced to just stand around doing nothing – Swedes, think of baseball as one long equivalent of fika! Let us have our one place in society where we can sit back, relax, get away from it all and just enjoy a nice summer’s day with family and friends (and no work). Yes indeed, Americans need this game.

Baseball.

For those of you in Sweden willing to give this a try, check out NASN (North American Sports Network) anytime between now and the end of October. You’re bound to find a game, but just remember that the beauty of baseball is discovered in person, not on TV. Even most Americans say that baseball on TV is about as interesting as watching paint dry.

Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Go Dodgers!

Pictures above:

1. Yankee Stadium on a nice summer's night.
2. Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.
3. Within two hours of landing in Seattle last summer, I was in the front row of a baseball game - the best way to beat jet lag.
4. Growing up in LA, it's all about the beloved Dodgers.

7 comments:

Anna H said...

Have you tried Brännboll?
Very popular student game, quite similar to Baseball, but treated as a cilds game or party game more than a true sport.

I guess that might the reason at least for us Swedes not to find Baseball serious?

Ida said...

Okay, so I tried to think of it as an equivalent of fika, and you actually had me there for a moment...
But nah, I still don't get it...it just seems so...boring. And before you and every other American grind your teeth in fury, let me just defend myself by saying that being forced to play brännboll when I was a kid scarred me for life. Baseball reminds me too much of that stupid childs game for me to enjoy it.

Todd said...

Upon seeing the headline for this week's blog, I decided to play along...

So, I went downstairs and got a couple Dodger Dog (read: NYC street meat) and a refreshing fountain drink (warm canned soda from the street vendor). I then settled into my stadium seat (office chair...much more comfortable), precariously balanced the hot dogs on my lap, and reached for the soda with amazing balance....it's a synchronized dance that all baseball fans do during the 1st to the 2nd inning. And just like the real ball park, I spill a little mustard and ketchup on my shorts (suit pants).

Ok, now I'm ready to read this week's blog entry...wait not yet. I stand to sing the national anthem along with the rest of the "Linkoping Livin'" fans in the office. Ok, just me...which is somewhat embarrassing when approaching that high note "...the land of the FREE...." My boss did not see the humor.

Ok, now I'm ready...and just like in real baseball, I was bored by time I finished my second hot dog...or in this case the 2nd paragraph.

Magnus Falk said...

From what I've seen of Baseball it seems to me to be one of the few sports where you, even at a professional level, can get away with being overweight. Do you have an explanation for this? It seems to me that running would be a pretty important part of the game and the obese people should be at a disadvantage there.

Johan Gunnarsson said...

Don't let the other commenters bother you. I for one can see the beauty of boring things, if I only get to understand them. That's why I like Star Trek. So what's up with all this stealing? I know you're supposed to "steal" the bases, but I've never understood why or how as no one seems to actually grab any base and bring it with him.

Thinking of it, that would probably make the whole game a lot more interesting. "Who took the second base? Where is it? This is gonna be a long night."

Kerstin said...

Go Mariners!!!!!!

leec said...

Great post and description. You got it all right, except the Dodgers part. Go Giants!