June 2011

The mystery sport

When I came to the US I thought that adapting to this country would be very easy. After all, 90% of the films and TV shows I watch come from this country, so I should know it reasonably well, right? Well; every once in a while something happens that reminds me that I'm in a foreign country I don't know as well as I thought. What came to mind a moment ago, though, is not something that happened in the last couple of days, but something that happened shortly after I arrived:

I had just signed the lease on the apartment, and my stuff was still in some warehouse in Ireland, waiting for a ship that would bring it to California (and it wouldn't arrive for a couple more months), so I had to buy bed linens, plates, forks and knives, etc. So off to Walmart I went.

My search for household goods took me next to the sporting goods section, where I could see shelves full of implements and with a sign that said what sport they were for. “Swimming”, “basketball”, “baseball”, “skating”, and so on, until I got to one I didn't know. More properly, I already knew the word, but the meaning I knew for it had nothing at all to do with sports. Furthermore, a look at the contents of the shelves didn't clarify what kind of sport it could be: it didn't so much look like a set of items to practice the sport with, as much as stuff to go see the sport. However, as I wasn't very interested in the subject and I had other stuff to do, I forgot about the subject and time passed...

... Until one day I came across a magazine article talking about baseball and explaining that the pre-match becomes a big social affair. Some hours before the ball part gates open, a few hundreds or thousands of people come in their trucks, park and then open their tail gates and take out chairs and tables and drinks and the barbecue and organize a big picnic.

And that's how I learnt about that great American sport, previously unknown to me, that is tailgating.