Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Friday Night Lights

Here’s an extract from a recent article in the The Citizen, Key West’s daily newspaper. Any idea what they’re talking about?

Randolph pounded a 373-foot grand slam to center in the fourth and belted a three-run homer to left field in the fifth propelling the Conchs to a 15-1 run-rule win against Ransom Everglades in their district opener. Randolph’s seven RBI were more than enough for starter Bobby Hernandez who pitched three no hit innings, striking out eight and walking one. Jordan Rivas, who went 2 for 3 with an RBI, drilled a double to deep left field to begin the sixth.”

Lots of numbers and aggressive sounding verbs suggest an unsavoury incident at an algebra convention but this is the rhythmic and poetic language used to describe the greatest of all American pastimes, baseball.

Baseball is a bit like cricket in the same way that American Football is a bit like soccer, i.e. not at all. There are bats and balls and helmets and gloves and runs and innings but baseball always produces a winning outcome no matter how long the two teams have to play to find one.

Here in Florida, the baseball season has begun in earnest and a couple of Fridays ago, Kieran and I went out to see a game featuring local heroes, the Key West Conchs. (A conch is a brightly coloured, spiral sea shell.) We happily paid our $5 each to enter Rex Weech Field, a smart and compact stadium with seating for a couple of thousand eager spectators.

Strolling past the merchandise and hot dog concession stands (yes, I managed to pass the hot dog stand), we took our seats in the bleachers (unroofed outdoor grandstand) just in time to stand up again immediately for a patriotic rendition of the national anthem.

The Conchs took a 7-0 lead in the first four innings and despite a spirited comeback by the opposition, the result was never really in doubt with the Conchs running out 9-7 victors in the end. This win extended their unbeaten run since the start of the season to five straight games and they were front pages news next morning as The Citizen lauded the achievement in its usual proud and homespun fashion.

It’s not remarkable or unusual in America for a community and it’s media to support their local supporting heroes but what is remarkable to me is that the Key West Conchs are not a professional team playing Major League Baseball. Nor are they one of the many minor league teams dotted around the country. They’re not even the team from the local college. The Key West Conchs are the local high school baseball team.

They adorn the pages of The Citizen every single day regardless of whether they’ve played a game or not. Their players and coaches (yes, ‘coaches’, plural) are acclaimed wherever they go and local businesses are falling over themselves to add their names to a long list of team sponsors.

It’s almost impossible to imagine what the equivalent picture would have looked like back in Scotland if the same amount of time, adoration and resources had been thrown at my Falkirk High School football team during that glorious 1981/82 season… cue Scooby Doo-like wavy screen and spooky flashback music…

- We would get more than occasional use of the ‘senior’ pitch, i.e. the one with only 50% mud.
- We’d demolish Bantaskine Primary School to make way for our 2,000-seater stadium.
- We’d have goals with nets!!!
- People would pay to come and see us play.
- We’d have at least five sets of strips, home and away plus free boots.
- We’d get time off classes to practice.
- We’d be the most popular guys in school.
- Scouts from universities and professional teams would offer us free education/paying jobs.
- And the Falkirk Herald would have to change from weekly to daily to cover all the match reports, the endless statistics, the player profiles & interviews, the Manager’s strategies, the fashion disasters (white shoes and mullets), the classic ‘Old Firm’ clashes with St. Mungos, the broken legs and the never-proven drinking shenanigans on the ‘lost weekend’ tour to Dumfries & Galloway.

Of course all of this assumes that we’d also have been as accomplished as the Key West Conchs. There are tens of thousands of high schools in the United States and currently, Key West is rated the no.5 high school baseball team in the country. Impressive stuff for a small town and worthy of the plaudits and adulation heaped upon them in their quest to become the (and here’s my favourite, ridiculous Ameringlish word) winningest team in Florida baseball history.

2 Comments:

At 10/3/05 9:59 am, Blogger DC said...

Soaps,

Reading this you wonder why Central Scotland has some of the highest poor health statistics for youngsters.Teenagers activities mostly involve hanging about smoking, drinking, taking drugs, fighting & eating stuff that should probably be banned - and these are just the ones involved in School football teams.There is however a strong and proud Scottish tradition of sportsmen succeeding whilst dealing with serious beer & pie addictions.Has the "Beer & Pie " weight loss plan taken off in the States yet?

I think you're being a little modest about your popularity at School -

" Hey Surlan - got any money ?"

" Hey Surlan - gies that pie "

" Hey Surlan - gies that Status Quo tour badge"

"Hey Surlan - I'm goanti batter you"

I'm sure the sweet memories are flooding back.

Cheers,

DC

 
At 10/3/05 5:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eh... sorry Big Stevie... here's my money.

N

 

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