Opening Day at Fenway Park

5 04 2014

My employer has four season tickets to home games of the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park. And one of the perks is that employees of all levels on the food chain get to use these tickets (for free), most of the time all you have to do is ask nicely. Of course, sometimes some client entertaining has to be done, so on game day one might discover that one’s planned afternoon or evening at the ballpark has fallen through at the last moment. That’s fair, though. The seats are in the 12th row just behind 3rd base. I can see why clients would want to go.

But sometimes, regular old staff like me gets lucky.

Yesterday was Opening Day. The 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox came home to begin another season. It was an afternoon game, with the official celebration and “ring ceremony” – where the players from last year’s team pick up their official championship bling, beginning at 1pm.

Famous Fenway Park.

What more American thing is there to do than go to a ballgame at one of the oldest and most storied ballparks in the country? And what more American of American things to do than go to a ballgame at one of the oldest and most storied ballparks in the country on Opening Day? Lest we forget, last year’s Opening Day at Fenway happened just hours before the Marathon bombings. And of course everyone here in Boston can tell you where they were during the fairytale worst-to-first World Series run last October that made the city whole again.

So Friday morning, as part of a planned office meeting, leadership held a raffle, with the four coveted tickets going to four lucky winners. And… I won a ticket to Opening Day.

The pregame festivities were emotionally-laden and full of symbolism; they included bombing victims and first responders, as well as a salute to the city’s firefighters, after two of them died in a blaze not far from Fenway last week. A Coast Guard helicopter buzzed the 36,000 fans in a very-low-altitude flyover. The pennant was raised to great fanfare. The Boston Pops teamed up with the Dropkick Murphys for the national anthem. The old mayor tossed the ball to the new mayor, who threw the first pitch. The game was not exactly an afterthought, but it was a bit of an anticlimax, with the players and the fans fairly spent. The Sox lost to the Brewers 6-2.

How totally cool is this?

How totally cool is this?

So what did I make of it? Without getting too slushy or overly patriotic – it was an unforgettable day I was absolutely thrilled to experience. And I’m not sure that any of my friends overseas can understand the bond that links me to all of this. This is a small part of why I came back to the States after all these years.

An old dear friend needed just two words to sum up everything I felt, reducing me to tears. She said, simply: “Welcome home.”

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Lanugage Traps for Foreigners

31 05 2011

Language and culture can be tricky, and there are a lot of unhealthy traps that a foreigner can tumble into without even trying. The Swiss friends with whom we are currently traveling in the United States have gotten a massive dose of both in the past couple of weeks.

Heading off into uncharted linguistic territory.

They have been pretty good sports about it all, even if, as is sometimes the case, the joke happens to be on them. And even if most of the information goes in one ear and out the other because it will be useless to them when they get home in 6 days.

In my previous post, I mentioned my role as the color commentator as we pass landmarks, cruise through national parks and drive down Main Streets of small towns along our way. And some of the stuff we have been talking about really does merit a blog post.

Cultural connotations can be difficult to understand in the language of origin, and most are more or less gibberish in some other language that doesn’t have the words for it. Here is a short list of a few things I have recently tried to explain… I have listed them in the order of least difficult to most difficult to describe in a foreign language.

See how many of these you can do in a language that is not your own, and let me know your foreign friends’ comprehension and/or reactions:

  • Why are there little red flags on the sides of American mailboxes?
  • 100 miles does not equal 100 kilometers, and 100 degrees Centigrade does not equal 100 degrees Fahrenheit (but that 100 degrees F is still hot enough….)
  • The difference between “hash browns” and “hash brownies”.
  • How drivers at an intersection with a four-way stop sign organize themselves so that chaos does not ensue in the middle of said intersection.
  • What are trailer parks, and how do you identify their human declination, “trailer park trash”?
  • The micro- and macro- economic benefits of 24-hour shopping. (And the fun of a 3 a.m. soccer game in Aisle 6 of your local supermarket using a can of tuna instead of a ball.)
  • Why it’s completely appropriate to dance with some guy to live music in some stinky bar in some little town in the middle of nowhere out west and then later ask to borrow his cowboy hat for a photo opportunity. (Prerequisite: alcohol.)

And here is one I haven’t even attempted on my Swiss friends yet, but know from past experience with other Germanic peoples that it’s pretty much impossible:

  • Major League Baseball.

    Does not exist in Europe.