|(FN Photo by Mark Lawrence)|
by Mark Lawrence, Down-Under Editor
Sydney, Australia— After a few years of nonsense rumors and knuckle-headed local sports reporting by guys ill-equipped to cover the topic, Major League Baseball finally made it to Australia, and amid the initial hoopla, this correspondent began to fear that the potential for National Embarrassment was quite real. And, of course, the Oz Media didn’t let me down.
I’d like to apologize to the players for our media pinheads thrusting cricket bats at them and insisting they take a few cuts. I apologize for the pencil-neck who thought it’d be a real hoot to have players try an Aussie accent – they’re ballplayers, not Meryl freakin’ Streep. And I especially apologize to Vin Scully who, after a long flight was met at the airport with a cantankerous koala bear when all he probably wanted was a scotch straight up, and a few hours’ sleep. And I was particularly embarrassed for my country by that miserable kid who pitched a full-on conniption fit when he didn’t get that foul ball – the Age of Entitlement is over, kid – get used to it.
Despite all this, though, it looks like we got most of it right. The Sydney Cricket Ground was transformed into a pretty fair ball park and the Ground personnel did a terrific job dealing with the 38,000-plus fans, a lot of whom had never set foot in the SCG before. My initial scan of the seating diagrams had me convinced that my $200 seat (yikes) would not get me as close to the action as $200 ought to, but I was wrong – sitting fairly high in the Bill O’Reilly Stand (not the Fox News guy) I had a pretty fair view of the field, where the Dodgers and Diamondbacks started Game Two on Sunday.
Anyone who’s interested in the stats of that game – and I’m not sure many citizens of our particular nation would be – can go look ‘em up. See, there were a few aspects of the event that I found a lot more interesting and a little disturbing. On the positive side, the beer taps stayed open until the end of the game – and even better, most of my compatriots managed to behave themselves, despite the free flowing suds. And you may have seen pictures of that notorious three-foot-long hot dog –well, I didn’t spot any fans struggling to get their jaws around one and I wasn’t surprised – at forty bucks a throw, you’d need to be on player wages to afford one. But how in the Dodger Blue hell, does a sporting venue of that size manage to run out of regular dogs – before the end of the second inning?? That defies belief.
Commissioner Bud spoke a lot this past week about the ‘internationalization’ of the game – his word – and MLB’s colorful presence here in Sydney has surely gone a long way towards achieving some of that goal. Judging by the sea of Dodger Blue – and the puddles of Arizona Red – spread across the stands of the SCG, both franchises have at least made themselves some new friends. But as far as regular competition here in the Emerald City is concerned – well, that’s still quite a long way off. We lack a significant local fan base and, more importantly, an easily accessible infrastructure – if I want to see the Sydney Blue Sox hit in their 3,000 seat ball park, I have to travel sixty miles round trip to do it. And that’s a tad too far for this aging sports fan. Bud and I don’t often see eye-to-eye on things baseball, but this time we do. The Great Experiment has been a success, everybody made a boatload of money – except the hotdog concession – and a great time was had by all. Come visit us any time – we’d love to see you again.