Our English friends got a taste of America this weekend when the greatest rivalry in sports came to London. You might have been forgiven for wondering whether the teams were playing American football rather than baseball, since the two teams combined for thirty runs over the weekend, but the score aside, I hear the organizers did their best to make the experience as authentic as possible, with hot dog and beer vendors working the stands, the seventh inning stretch, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” and, in a nod to Boston, “Sweet Caroline.” Unfortunately the Yankees managed to take both games. As someone once said, “Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the house in blackjack.” Anyway, I am glad English people had a chance to see a bit of the real America, which is infinitely more appealing than the America I am sure they read about in their newspapers these days.
Calling Major League Baseball the “real America,” as I just have, is both trite and a little bit untrue, because Major League Baseball is now so expensive and the stadiums so glitzy. Did you know you can now buy a braised short rib grilled cheese sandwich at Fenway Park? Anyway, most Americans don’t get to too many major league games, because the tickets are expensive and the games are all televised. If you want to see a bit of the real real America, try a minor league game, or better yet, a good little league or fastpitch softball game. We spent yesterday in Taunton at the USA Softball Massachusetts 14U-B Softball Championship, watching my daughter’s Canton Dirt Dawgs dispatch the Newton Panthers before being defeated by the New England Shockwave. Families brought picnics in their coolers, cheering on their girls and having a great time watching some really good youth fastpitch softball. The plate umpire earned a little good-natured ribbing from the crowd on account of the nebulous strike zone. On such a perfect day you can almost understand why Bart Giamatti, once the Commissioner of Baseball, said:
Baseball has the largest library of law and love and custom and ritual, and therefore, in a nation that fundamentally believes it is a nation under law, well, baseball is America’s most privileged version of the level field.