Tuesday, April 03, 2012

America's Game

"Nothing in our daily life offers more of the comfort of continuity, the generational connection of belonging to a vast and complicated American family, the powerful sense of home, the freedom from time's constraints, and the great gift of accumulated memory than does our National Pastime."
-- Ken Burns

Few things are as truly American as baseball. More than any other sport it has permeated our culture. It is intertwined with our history. It celebrates what's great about our country. Countless books and articles have been written about the beauty of our game. But it's not often that we get to hear the perspective of immigrants who have come to this county about our national game.

Take for example, this excellent essay by Irish author Colum McCann. He came to America a number of years ago and immediately fell in love with the game. A brief excerpt:
Baseball is often talked about as the American game, but there is something wildly immigrant about it too. No other game can so solidly confirm the fact that you are in the United States, yet bring you home to your original country at the same time.
If soccer is the world's game, then baseball belongs to those who have left their worlds behind. This is not so much nostalgia as it a sense of saudade - a longing for something that is absent.
I have been in New York for 18 years. Every time I have gone to Yankee Stadium with my two sons and my daughter, I am somehow brought back to my boyhood. Perhaps it is because baseball is so very different from anything I grew up with.
The subway journey out. The hustlers, the bustlers, the bored cops. The jostle at the turnstiles. Up the ramps. Through the shadows. The huge swell of diamond green. The crackle. The billboards. The slight air of the unreal. The guilt when standing for another nation's national anthem. The hot dogs. The bad beer. The catcalls. Siddown. Shaddup. Fuhgeddaboudit.
Learning baseball is learning to love what is left behind also. The world drifts away for a few hours. We can rediscover what it means to be lost. The world is full, once again, of surprise. We go back to who we were.
Be sure to read the whole thing.

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