Last Saturday I went to my first Boston Red Sox game at the historic Fenway Park. And it wasn’t just any ordinary game. The bearded men were playing their arch-rivals from New York, the Yankees. From the little that I gathered from my first two weeks in Boston, baseball and the Red Sox are a big deal here and it would be suicidal on my part as a sports fanatic living in Boston to be clueless about either. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do or where you come from, you just have to root for the Red Sox. It’s part of your living experience in Boston, the sporting hub of America.
You see, I come from a place where people eat, sleep and breathe cricket and a family that is obsessed about sports, especially tennis. So I thought the transition from Lahore to Boston wouldn’t be that drastic in terms of the sporting aspect. I was pleasantly surprised. As we (my brother and I) walked around Kenmore square prior to the start of play, a massive crowd, with people of all ages — families, kids, old timers dressed in red and white — flocked in for the big game. For those without a ticket, the nearby pubs on the way to the ballpark were the place to be. The Bostonians indulged in their traditional game-day hot dog and cold beer. This was a good two hours before the start of play and we could already sense an atmosphere developing.
If the build-up to the game was as emphatic as it was, I could only imagine what the actual game would be like. Following the national anthem and the colorful player introductions, play got underway. As a complete novice when it comes to baseball, and any typically American sport for that matter, I knew I would have a hard time following the play and keeping up with the score. But honestly, this whole experience was much more than just that. With the energy of the crowd, the Mexican wave going on and the music playing in the background, it was hard not to get sucked into the world cup-like atmosphere.
In between the peanuts being tossed our way, ‘Sweet Caroline’ being sung by 37,000 people and the random marriage proposals on the big screen, we got to see some baseball too. As an aspiring sports journalist, I felt I got a fair bit of education that afternoon. And this was not just by observation of the play on the field. The very informed analysis between two old timers sitting right behind us had a sufficient impact on my baseball knowledge as well. And if I wasn’t convinced about the entertainment factor taking over sports in general, I sure was on board now. It’s a show and not just a game. No wonder a sport like tennis is not as big as it once used to be in the United States. There is no way fans can walk around midway through a rally or a guy can sell pizza in the stands as Federer prepares to serve. But pretty much anything goes in a baseball match. It was amusing to say the least and an experience like none other.
The Red Sox blitzed the Yankees 5-1, thanks to Jon Lester’s accurate pitching. And I witnessed my first baseball game. It was a Saturday afternoon well spent. And maybe the first of more such Saturdays to follow!