Yesterday afternoon, I attended my first live baseball game; I guess you could say it was a big step in the Americanization of this freshly naturalized Frenchie. A friend got tickets for the Yankees vs the Kansas City Royals, so we all travelled up to the Bronx in scorching heat. According to the excited people in my party, it was a great game with plenty of action, real suspense and lots of hits (the NYT described it as a "slugfest").
I have to say, I'm still not convinced. And if I'm not convinced after a good game, then baseball's just not for me. But that's okay, to each their own—I'd still rather watch the lamest soccer game over the most exciting baseball slugfest, and with Euro 2008 starting, there's no doubt as to what's going to hold my attention.
What I'd like to comment on, however, is the ambience at the game itself. First of all, Yankee Stadium is an eyesore. You get out of the subway and it's like you've been teleported to some developing nation (though the prices certainly are first rate: it's Gouge City out there) and the directions are vague. Your visual sense is assaulted nonstop. There may be a new stadium next year, but its design is really conservative, especially compared to new stadiums (mostly for soccer) like the Olympique Marseille new Stade Vélodrome, the Lazio's new Stade delle Aquile in Rome, Valencia FC's new home in Spain, the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, or the Spartak Moscow's new home.
But what really struck me is that apathy of the fans; that seems to be an American thing because I got the same feeling at the soccer games I've seen in the US. The crowd was pretty quiet, and started yelling mostly when told to, like when the screens went MAKE SOME NOISE! Granted, people got out of their seats and screamed and clapped on good runs, but even that felt restrained. No songs, no taunting of the Royals, no spirit. The only chants were along the lines of "Joh-nny Da-mon!" which is just plain sad. I mean, is that the best you can do, Yankee fans??? Compared to the action in the stands of a soccer game, it was a bit of a letdown. My hometown club of Bastia, in Corsica, was dreaded all through the ’70s and ’80s for its rabid fans, and even though its humble Stade Armand-Césari holds only about 10,000 people (and even less when I used to go), they make more of ruckus than 55,000 Yankee fans.
Want to see how it's done? Check out the action even before a soccer game starts, as Liverpool fans sing their anthem in a match against Chelsea. Or see how fans of Lens sing "La Lensoise" and manage to do a conga line in the stands. The Sheila pointed out that America doesn't know how to do political protest and get in the streets anymore, so it's no surprise it sucks at cheering at games as well.
You may say: Yeah, but in the US we don't have violent hooligans! Of course there's got to be a middle ground between complete apathy and complete mayhem. But here people are so afraid of lawsuits that nothing happens at all. Or at least that's one of the reasons, I think.
Also: What's up with the nonstop eating and drinking? I have to admit that I ate a ginormous amount of peanuts and popcorn but I honestly don't believe I would have consumed as much if I had been more into the game. But I've seen people at soccer games leave to go to the concession stands during play, which is completely insane since a goal can come at any moment in soccer, and for all you know it's going to be the only one of the match. Do you really want to be at the trough when that happens?