My baseball initiation

A day after Eid was celebrated in parts of Pakistan, I was involved in a rather different set of festivities. The occasion was one of the most passionate rivalries in the sport of baseball as the Boston Red Sox played host to the New York Yankees. You do not have to be a baseball fanatic to know of the fierce rivalry that permeates the air each time these two teams play. I had no doubts that the game would be a festive occasion but I did have reservations about whether I would enjoy my first live game of baseball.
Baseball, till now, seemed like a sport that lacks nuance of applicable technique. Moreover, it came across as a sport that ostensibly has none of the cerebral aspects of cricket. All said and done, the game at Fenway Park (the home stadium of the Boston Red Sox) was an engaging immersion into aspects of the American culture. Like everything else in America that is deemed worthy of any attention, the stadium was an endorsement of size; adorned with big bright neon signs screaming in support of one product or the other.
A constitutional law professor, discussing the issue of racial segregation, had warned us earlier in the day to be prepared for the fact that baseball is a pre-dominantly white sport — at least in terms of the audience that it attracts. And even though white America may not capture the fascinating diversity of this country in its entirety, it still has a lot to offer to anyone willing to make the effort to engage with it.
Boston is a friendly city by any measure, unless you are a Yankee fan on a night on which the Yankees are playing at Fenway Park. I do not mean this in a nasty way but the Yankee fans in the crowd did not have it easy. The loud jokes aimed at Yankee fans reminded me of the way crowds in Lahore react when they want to announce whose turf it is.
As I saw people arriving at the game with their children and spouses, I missed the days when similar scenes were a regular occurrence at the Qaddafi stadium in Lahore. Despite all the various camera angles available on television, there is a sacred element to watching a sport live. Witnessing such profound talent in live action is almost holy and no camera or commentator can capture the gasps of the crowd when sparkling talent takes an almost impossible catch or dispatches a home-run with that sweet sound as the bat meets the ball.
Sitting in the crowd, I was reminded of things that I admire about Americans. The people of this country have a unique ability to derive joy from the small things in life. When one person threw an inflatable ball up into the air, everyone in the crowd (and I mean everyone from a child to people the age of grandparents) wanted to jump and touch it. And till they touched it they kept insisting that it should be thrown their way as they laughed boisterously with child-like but endearing excitement.
Also on display was the can-do American creed. A couple of teenagers in our stand were trying to get a Mexican wave going and they tried unsuccessfully for about fifteen minutes. Then they noticed other people in the crowd trying to do the same and screams of ‘let’s work together people!’ rang out. To begin with, it was almost imperceptible as there were trickles of movement in the crowd. The teenagers kept screaming till enough people raised their hands to join in the wave. And almost countless failed efforts later, thousands in Fenway Park heeded the call of those two teenagers as a breathtaking Mexican wave swept through the stadium and all its stands. Their joy was something to behold. ‘We did it. We tried and did it,’ they kept screaming. I could not help but think of how this summed up a willingness to try, even if that means failing, that is uniquely American. This is also evident in American laws of bankruptcy that have traditionally not penalised past failures of individuals trying to start businesses — this feature sets the US jurisdiction apart from all other jurisdictions of the world. In order to figure out the right answer, one has to be willing to take the risk of getting it wrong.
Despite the excitement, the Mexican wave and a brilliant home-run, the Red Sox lost at home to the Yankees. But their supporters had reaffirmed in front of a total stranger (me) what I value most in this country and its people. A day later when I shared with three American law students why I admire their country so much, they seemed to be shocked and admitted that they were ‘not used to hearing positive things about America’.
Mankind is not exactly similar but it is similar in its complexities—that is what allows us to relate to people from all over the world. Pakistan and its people must stay open to learning things from people from different parts of the world. That will help us contribute to a safer tomorrow. Pakistanis have a lot to offer to the world as well but in order for anyone to be interested in listening to us, we must make an effort to demonstrate that we, too, are willing to listen and learn.
The writer is a Barrister and an Advocate of the High Courts. He has a special interest in Antitrust law and is currently pursuing an LLM at a law school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.



3 Comments

  1. anonymous said:

    its like losing ur virginity right?? rename it, my first time with a baseball (bat)

  2. anonymous said:

    it clearly seems from the picture that he didnt enjoy his first time

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