Sometimes you just have to write…
Now that I’ve gotten your attention (and possibly gotten your hackles up), let me explain.
I went to a soccer game yesterday. This was the second sporting event I’ve attended in the last couple of weeks, which is unusual in that I probably have averaged about one per year in my adult life.
Yesterday’s game was FC Groningen v Ajax. If you follow soccer, you know that this game didn’t matter at all to Ajax. They’re already champions of the Eredivisie and bound for the Champions League. They were playing just for pride: how embarrassing would it be to be beaten by a middling team like FC Groningen?
FC Groningen, on the other hand, was playing to get into the Europa Cup play-off competition. They needed at least a tie to be sure of getting into that competition, or else a couple of other middling teams, playing at the same time, needed to lose.
Two weeks ago, while I was in Washington state, I attended a Seattle Mariners game, when they were playing against the Los Angeles Angels. I don’t follow baseball, but I gather neither team is particularly good. It was early in the season, so the game wasn’t that important to either team.
So let’s compare:
The FC Groningen stadium seats about 22,000 people. The Safeco field, where the Mariners play, seats about 47,000. For me, as a spectator who isn’t a fan of either sport, that made a huge difference.
Part of the joy of going to a sporting event, at least for me, is the scene: the crowd, the sounds, the cheering, the smells of the food, and so on. Baseball just has a bigger scene.
And everything is bigger. Baseball has a huge screen that’s easy to see. Slow-motion replays are projected, but also shots of people in the crowd, entertaining games between innings, and lots of statistics and other information about the game.
There are screens at the FC Groningen stadium as well, but they’re much smaller. The one opposite us was quite hard to read. It showed statistics and replays like at the Mariners game, but not much else. So it didn’t have nearly the entertainment value.
Of course (to channel my husband for a minute), since baseball is so boring in itself, people need other entertainment. Soccer is exciting to watch, and it only stops once, at halftime, unlike baseball that’s all stops and starts.
True, yet there’s something mesmerizing (in the sense of putting me to sleep) about soccer as well. They run, they kick, they pass the ball, they intercept the ball, they lose possession, and they do it all again, over and over. For me, since I don’t particularly care about either team, it’s just lots and lots of the same, occasionally punctuated by a shot at the goal.
Baseball, on the other hand, has an intensity I enjoy. That focused, strategic interaction between pitcher, catcher and batter is fascinating. And, when there is action, it’s always interesting. Whenever a pitch happens, it’s like whenever a soccer player shoots at the goal. And those tries at the goal don’t happen nearly as often as pitches do.
Another thing that’s bigger in baseball is the crowd. So the noise is bigger. And there are far more people to watch, either nearby in the stands or on the big screen.
Nevertheless, and despite the small stadium, at yesterday’s soccer game, the crowd was what kept me awake, even though it wasn’t big. That was because we were sitting near the visitors’ section, which was packed with the most rabid Ajax fans – who else would travel all the way to Groningen for a game that didn’t matter? They kept up a constant chanting – often in a taunting tone – about being champions. They were walled off from the Groningen supporters, so there wasn’t any actual physical fighting. And the Groningen “fanatics” did a lot of chanting and jumping around as well at the other end of the stadium.
But even with the Ajax and Groningen fans, it was nothing like the noise of the Mariners stadium.
The food is also bigger at a baseball game. This is one of the things that particularly amazed my Dutch students. When you buy a soda, for example, you get an enormous cup. And if you buy the souvenir cup, you get unlimited refills. If you actually collected those refills, you’d spend most of the game on the toilet, or bouncing off the ceiling from all the sugar!
So that’s why baseball is better than soccer: it’s just more interesting, and bigger!
By the way, the Mariners won the game I went to, which meant some very happy fans around us as we left.
Groningen lost yesterday, but the fans weren’t grumpy. The biggest cheers from the crowd were when the screen showed the scores from the other middling teams. Both lost, so Groningen is now 7th in the Eredivisie, which will allow them to go to the Europa Cup.
I wasn’t grumpy either, but I did leave wishing I could go to more baseball games.