Monday, March 13, 2006

National Pride in World Baseball Classic

My thoughts are varied after attending all six games in World Baseball Classic Round 1, Pool B in Arizona, not to mention three exhibition games with WBC teams. Yes, it is a big blur, but a good one. My reflections have been on the tremendous demonstrations of national pride that have emerged.
Mexican fans are draped in flags, have their faces painted, adorned in all sorts of clothing with the colors of Mexico's flag. There is also cheering, singing, horns playing, doing the waves, clapping and unabashed excitement at being part of this event. The usher at Chase Field agreed that we had never seen so many photos taken, of people in front of home plate, ranging from disposable cameras, phones and videocameras.
Canadian fans are more subdued, wearing the red and white, taking photos, with a few cheers for their country. There were folks decked out in all sorts of odd hats and shirts. I wonder who has the concession to make jester caps for every nation's flag colors??? And, who would buy them?
South Africa -- those young players went home with a piece of my heart. They played their best (when we wished them good luck in their game against Team USA, one player replied "we will do our best.") And they did throughout the tournament, going winless but their pride carried them through the tournament. They attended all the games in which they were not playing, were very well-behaved and appreciative of fans seeking photos or autographs. The supporters were enjoying the moment as well. As they were losing 14-0, a group of fans in South African flags and cricket uniforms paraded through Scottsdale Stadium cheering, with the flag waving proudly in the wind. I can make no excuses for the USA fan behind me who hollered a politically-insenstive comment as they passed. But, when his friends asked him to tone it down, he replied "I stayed up all night planning my comments and intend to use them."
USA fans -- they were there, they were cheering, but I must admit that I always go for the underdogs. Of the USA players, two stand out as approachable and available for their fans, signing at each game -- class act Derrek Lee, who is an amazing first baseman, and Johnny Damon -- cuter in person than you could even believe.
I overhead a MLB official say that the demonstration of pride at the games of Caribbean nations was even more exhuberant. I cannot wait until next weekend.