Baseball and expats: the many faces of home.
Happy Monday! Starting the week right with cafe au lait et tartines, and my mom’s delicious raspberry jam. Yum! And yes, I am a dunker, and yes, you may be horrified, but no, I don’t care. The only way to eat breakfast!
I also started the day reading this article in the NY Times by Colum McCann about baseball and immigration, and, well, Life. Colum McCann is an Irish writer who has lived in New York for the past 18 years. I haven’t read his book Let The Great World Spin but I’ve heard really good things about it. In this article, McCann recalls going to a soccer game as a little boy with his father, back in London, and draws a connection between his memory of that day and of his father with his more recent trips to Yankee Stadium with his own son. Different country, different game, yet the emotions are similar, and he can see himself in his son, and his father in himself. And baseball is the thing that allows him to bring together Europe and America, his past and his future, his memories and his hopes, his father and his son.
Baseball is often talked about as the American game, but there is something wildly immigrant about it too. No other game can so solidly confirm the fact that you are in the United States, yet bring you home to your original country at the same time.
If soccer is the world’s game, then baseball belongs to those who have left their worlds behind. This is not so much nostalgia as it a sense of saudade — a longing for something that is absent.
The subway journey out. The hustlers, the bustlers, the bored cops. The jostle at the turnstiles. Up the ramps. Through the shadows. The huge swell of diamond green. The crackle. The billboards. The slight air of the unreal. The guilt when standing for another nation’s national anthem. The hot dogs. The bad beer. The catcalls. Siddown. Shaddup. Fuhgeddaboudit.
Learning baseball is learning to love what is left behind also. The world drifts away for a few hours. We can rediscover what it means to be lost. The world is full, once again, of surprise. We go back to who we were.
I never meant to fall in love with baseball, but I did. I learned to realize that it does what all good sports should do: it creates the possibility of joy.
I couldn’t agree more. I know quite a few fellow expats who have fallen head over heels for baseball. It is so essentially American, not only because it was invented and is mainly only played here (with the exception of Canada, Japan and parts of Latin America) but also because of the sheer structure of the game. What is baseball about, if not leaving home (where the batter’s box is), going on a trip full of danger, challenges and excitement, and making it home? What is immigration about, if not leaving home, taking on adventures, challenges, new things, and finally making a new home for yourself? Baseball is about going home, and expats spend their lives doing that.
America is also viewed as the land of opportunity. Immigrants come to this country for a new job, a new life, a new chance. Baseball shows us players coming to bat repeatedly, getting three chances to hit a home run, to help their team score, and just like in the real world, odds are against them, yet they never give up. Again and again, they walk into the batter’s box, dig their feet in the dirt, squint, spit, lift the heavy bat behind their head… and take a swing.
Two summers ago, with my beautiful little sister at Citi Field. ❤
(Thanks to Elise C. for sending the link!)