Monday, October 27, 2008

Three years ago today

Today is a public holiday, Labour Day (which was a lovely, sunny day, by the way). I don’t really feel like discussing anything deep and meaningful, so instead I’m posting an old pre-blog journal entry written three years ago today, during the 2005 World Series. That seemed appropriate with the Phillies—the team my mother always cheered for—taking a 3-1 lead in this year’s version.

So, here’s a version of that entry, called “Baseball in Sunshine”, which is still more or less accurate:

Baseball isn't exactly important here. In fact, it's probably best described as a "minority sport." It's popular mostly among ex-pat Americans (Canadians, USAers, Central Americans) and maybe even some Japanese. But the rest of the country takes little notice at all.

Mind you, the concept isn't totally foreign. New Zealand's national men's softball team is several time world champions. But the average Kiwi only takes notice of that when they win another world championship.

Major League Baseball just isn't followed here, by and large. Our pay TV service, Sky, broadcasts baseball games from ESPN International, which usually works out to one featured game a week, often a replay. For a couple years running, they broadcast a live Cubs game on Queen's Birthday Weekend (first weekend in June), so it was a good excuse for a small party. As far as I know, there hasn't been a Cubs game broadcast, either live, delayed or as "highlights", in years.

It's way different with the World Series.

Most of the playoff games were presented in "highlight" form, in the evening. I watched a couple of the White Sox playoffs, and part of one of the Astros/Cardinals games.

The World Series is being presented live through ESPN International, including yesterday's marathon 14-inning endurance test. I watched game one, most of game two and game three intermittently until the ninth inning, when I left it on until the Sox won (apart form channel surfing to local news during commercial breaks). When I say I "watched" the game, that's not literally true; I've often had it on in the background while I'm doing other things.

The best part for me, though, is that due to the time difference the games are broadcast starting at 1pm our time. Even yesterday's marathon ended before sunset. Call me old fashioned, but I still feel that baseball belongs in the daylight, and the very warm, sunny spring weather we're having at the moment only reinforces those old-fashioned notions.

I can dimly remember my Dad taking me to the old Comiskey Park to watch the Sox as part of a father-son outing organised by our church. This would have been the early 60s, before I was old enough to remember much of anything.

Still, I vaguely remember sitting there, not having a clue what was going on, and being a little frightened of the thousands of screaming, cheering adults all around me. I guess it's a measure of how my childhood wasn't bad that I nevertheless felt safe because my Dad was there to protect me—even if he did occasionally shout in the direction of the field like the other, scarier grown-ups around me.

I can also remember my Dad watching Sox games on TV. As I remember it, he switched to Cubs loyalty when the Sox moved to UHF, which our TV didn’t receive. From there on, though, it was the Cubs all the way, so I guess that it was only natural that one day I'd end up living and working practically in the shadow of Wrigley Field.

Now, on the other side of the world from Wrigley Field, baseball is a tiny part of my life. To be honest, it was never that big even when I lived in the US, but it was still part of the background to my life, sometimes even in the foreground. Now, in this World Series, it's back in the—well, near-foreground, anyway.

I'm sure that this year's World Series coverage in New Zealand is no different from other years, but I never really noticed before. Why would I? Chicago wasn't in it.

So, I have game four all programmed into our satellite decoder so it switches in time for the game. I've planned in advance to sit there and do the little work I need to do on my laptop while the game plays in the background.

Once this series ends, baseball will again recede to the distant parts of my life, more memory than presence, until the next time events force it before me. Personally, I could really go for a Cubs-Sox Subway Series next year. It's not called a "field of dreams" for nothing.

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