Last weekend I went to my very first American Cricket game.
Oh, my mistake. Baseball. My very first baseball game.
I’m just being nasty for the hell of it really, because I prefer baseball to cricket. That knocking sound you hear is Phil Tuffnel tapping on my door with a cricket bat, come to forcibly remove my Englishman’s licence. With you in a sec Tuffers. Any game you can play for four days straight and still end up with a draw has to be some kind of joke.
I went to the, frankly spectacular Sapporo Dome to watch Sapporo’s very own Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters lose in the extra innings to Seibu Lions. The Fighters have only existed in this Hokkaido based form for about five years, and they nevertheless won the whole Japan series in their third year, so people are pretty freakin’ big into baseball here. Their star hitting-fella Inaba scored a home run, and there didn’t seem to be much between the sides. The secret of the Fighters’ success in the cold snowy north is that Sapporo Dome is entirely covered, and even on a lovely sunny day like last Sunday, there’s nary a scrap of daylight inside the actual arena. Therefore they can finally practice in the winter, rather than just sitting round at home tossing a single baseball to each other while they huddle round the paraffin heater.
I’m pretty sure that the vividly green playing surface was not actually real grass, but apparently when they play football in there they just slide the real grass football pitch in on top of it. That’s kind of a crazy concept and I’d love to see it happen.
The day was fun (albeit I was almost catatonically tired) and the four hour game didn’t really drag like I thought it would, being used to seeing so many football matches. There wasn’t too much slack between the innings, and your interest was kept spiked throughout by a great deal of American style showmanship of the kind that has started to appear in the Premiership more and more in recent years. As each home player went up to bat he had his own choice of song blasting out, each player had their own chant, some had props (giant pink gloves etc.) that people produced, and when Inaba came up to bat with the chance to score, the whole crowd kicked into this thing that involved standing up, chanting, jumping and clapping. I love seeing people chanting and moving together en-masse, so it was pretty cool. Everyone had clapping sticks too, sort of plastic mini-bats that they used to bang along with the chants, or point and wave in an, at times, alarmingly choreographed fashion.
In between they had dancing led by cheerleaders, power rangers and of course the mascot BB (a bear with a Mohawk, who had some freakin’ moves). My favourite bit was the sort of hand-jive competition where everyone had to swing their hands along to the Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird. Man, that’s a fantastic song.
So overall, live baseball is approved, and I’m trying to organise going again at a time when I can eat till my gut bursts and actually buy beer from the poor sods who are lugging kegs of beer on their backs up and down the aisles. Ah, beer monkeys.