Explaining Baseball to Serbians: a how not-to guide
Last night, Muž and I entertained some of his Serbian colleagues who were visiting Washington, D.C. It was their first trip to America, and we were excited to return some of the hospitality we received abroad. However, this was an organized bunch. In the few days before we saw them, they experienced much of what DC has to offer: they had seen the monuments, gone to the museums, been ripped off by a taxi driver. What else was there? We were stumped.
Then it hit us like a fly ball: what’s more American than a baseball game?
We bought some nosebleed, er, “scenic” Nationals tickets, sat down, and started discussing the rules. I always thought baseball was a pretty simple game. Until I tried to explain it.
“Three strikes is an out. Unless it’s a foul ball, because you can’t strike out on a foul ball. Unless it’s a foul tip …” You get the idea. Muž was better at explaining the basics. We bought hot dogs and beer (naturally) but we did not have Cracker Jacks, because let’s face it: Cracker Jacks are vile.
After a few innings, we settled into that special baseball lull that comes with processed meat, beer, and prolonged sitting. “It’s a peaceful game,” one guest remarked. Compared to a European soccer game? Apsolutno.
Until the fourth inning, that is. Serbian soccer might have flares and ultrafans, but D.C. baseball has the President’s Race. Plush costumes of four iconic presidents race each other around the field. The crowd goes wild, chanting for President (Teddy) Roosevelt, who has never won a race.
When you think about it–much less try to explain it–this is pretty weird. Stuffed replicas of dead presidents compete in a foot race for our general amusement. I can’t imagine this happening in other countries. Our guests were bewildered. Then they were amused. Then, of course, they posed for a photo with Teddy.
We sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and celebrated a Nationals win. Though it was a most American evening, we ended it Serbian-style: by piling our five guests in a compact car to drive them to their hotel. I think we left them confused about the game, but without a doubt that we were happy to show them a bit of our home.