This is my first post for Rising Apple in a while; I’ve been in Dublin, Ireland the past few weeks for a study abroad program. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve gotten to see some spectacular sights around the Emerald Isle, but one of the things I’ve really missed about the States is watching New York Mets baseball every night. Having to read about R.A. Dickey’s other-worldly month of June the morning after the fact just isn’t as sweet as hearing Gary, Ron, and Keith describe it in the moment. However, if there was ever one day above all I wish I could be back in America, it would have been yesterday, the most American of all days.
It’s an unusual feeling to have to celebrate Independence Day in absentia. It was an important day for me and my fellow American students, but to the Dubliners around us and the rest of the world, it was just another Wednesday (it’s not even the day Bill Pullman saved humanity from annihilation!). Instead of seeing the Stars and Stripes flying from every street corner, we feasted our eyes on the Irish tricolor, just like any other day (the Irish are just as proud of their heritage as well – the flag flies constantly all over the place). The closest I can relate the feeling to is being a Mets fan and trying to relay your excitement over the team to a friend or relative who doesn’t follow baseball. You are ecstatic that R.A. Dickey may start in the All-Star game or that Ike Davis has finally chosen his exit from the Interstate, but the other person simply doesn’t care. The best you can get out of him or her is a polite “good for you,” maybe a congratulatory pat on the back, and the conversation will turn to something irrelevant to your current emotional high.
The day did not go without some recognition from my American enclave, however. Not wanting to be “those crazy Yanks,” we didn’t go nuts with the red, white, and blue apparel, but we each wore something that subtly incorporated the colors. Surprisingly, one of my friends with an internship in the city received a few “Happy Fourths” from coworkers the way someone would receive “Happy birthdays.” We planned to meet at a place called “Captain America’s” on Grafton Street, but that place turned out to be a little too American for our tastes (think an overpriced T.G.I. Friday’s). We headed out to some other place, passed on the Guinness for the night in favor of good old American beer (a Coors Light for myself – they didn’t have Budweiser), and then met up at someone’s flat to take in that great patriotic classic, Independence Day.
That night when I got back and read about the Mets’ unfortunate loss at the hands of the Phillies (the Declaration was signed in Philadelphia – perhaps we had it coming), it got me thinking on how genuinely American baseball really is. This sentiment isn’t new: for decades the American version of the Holy Trinity has been Mom, Apple Pie, and Baseball. But from looking across the pond at it, and from taking in Irish equivalents, I have come to appreciate it more. People say football has usurped baseball as the National Pastime, but despite the NFL’s booming popularity, baseball has something over it and every other sport in the country: tradition. Baseball is still in communion with Mom and Apple Pie because it has been in the national spotlight much longer than football, basketball, and hockey have been. Each of these sports took off only in the second half of the twentieth century, while baseball has fifty-plus years of history on each of them.
I realize the “it’s been around longer” argument doesn’t fly with some people, but it is still a valid one because of the implications behind it. Because baseball has more than half a century on its rivals, it has reached more generations of Americans, thus reuniting present with not just past but far past. My Mets fandom originates two generations ago with my paternal grandfather, himself originally a New York Giants fan. There must be thousands of fellow Met fans whose affiliation stems from a Brooklynite grandfather who saw Jackie Robinson round the bases at Ebbets Field, or even from a great-grandfather who remembers when John McGraw ruled the dugouts of the Polo Grounds.
Baseball is as deep in the American mindset as hurling and Gaelic football are in the Irish mindset: these are games that have been around for (in Ireland’s case) hundreds of years, and no amount of “Englishman’s games” like soccer or rugby can ever take away that tradition. You root for your team because it is part of your heritage, because those generations before you rooted for the very same team. In this way, while football and basketball may draw higher television ratings and get more attention on SportsCenter, they will never replace baseball as the Great American Pastime. Reflecting on this sentiment from even farther away from the team’s epicenter than usual, my faith in that “Game for All America” and our “orange-and-blues” is as strong as ever.