This blog entry will have very little to do with the Middle Kingdom, and will have a great deal to do with baseball.
When I was 10, in Kansas City (technically, Independence Missouri, home of Harry S Truman), there was no major league team. The A’s had departed for Oakland, and the Royals had yet to arrive. Fortunately, KFEQ from St. Joseph carried the games of the St. Louis Cardinals, and the broadcasters were two Hall of Famers: Harry Carey and Jack Buck. The Cardinals also had a great team that year, including the phenomenal pitcher Bob Gibson, and won the World Series (over the Red Sox in 7 games). It was a great introduction to baseball—and led to an early realization that baseball may be best enjoyed over the radio. It also made me a lifelong Cardinals’ fan, with a soft spot for the Royals of my high school years.
Fast forward to 1975: a ridiculously great World Series (Reds over the Red Sox—again—in 7), featuring a very famous homerun in game 6 by Carleton Fisk (and a generally ignored but at least as important homerun by Bernie Carbo). I watched it in my college dorm, and swore I would never miss another World Series game. And I didn’t, until 2007: I had no internet and no one in Nanjing (my first time in China) was interested in watching baseball. And since the games here start at 7 or 8 am, it seems unreasonable to find bars open then, which would have been the best chance to find the game. (It turns out, however, that if you want to watch rugby at 7 am in a bar, there is at least one place in Suzhou where that can be done.)
So I missed the Series in 2007 (a boring affair where the Red Sox—again!—swept the Colorado Rockies.) But I don’t think I’ve missed one since then, so another streak is ongoing. As I write this, the Houston Astros are just about to tie the Series up 2-2, after losing their first two games at home.
I’m not sure why baseball is not popular in China. It is, of course, very popular in some parts of Asia (especially Japan and South Korea). Maybe Major League Baseball™ should hire me to be an American ambassador to China, marketing and promoting their fine product.
What I’d really like to do is introduce WiffleBall™ to China. That should not be as difficult; as some reading this may know, I am a long-standing member of the Oakwood Wiffle and Ale Club, a group of malcontents and sybarites who play a disturbingly-competitive game every Saturday morning if it is 40° (F) or warmer. There are some yankees (geographically, not in terms of baseball affection) who like to play when it is colder. They are maladjusted.
Wiffleball, in any case, is a great game and would be perfect for China. It doesn’t take much room, it is very fun, and teams can be relatively large. Of course, if it got popular, 19,218 people might show up to play, which could be a challenge. China sometimes is crowded.
Otherwise, the week was pretty uneventful: I tortured two groups of students with exams, and the other highlight was the bizarre conversation at a Thai restaurant here. This restaurant is supposed to be good, but it had no appetizers—Thai or Chinese—or small dishes. The menu listed only entrées, desserts, and drinks. I wanted an entrée and an appetizer, or at least something else. So this was the conversation, which is pretty accurately reported since it was hard to forget. (I’m putting this all in English, although it was in a Thai restaurant where I am speaking bad Chinese and good English with a server who spoke bad English and good Chinese.)
Me: Do you have any appetizers? Dumplings, shumai, something like that?
Her: No. Just main dishes.
Me: Could I get an extra bowl of rice?
Her: No. Just main dishes.
Me: So I can’t just get another small bowl of rice?
Her: You can get all you can eat [food? rice?] for 10 dollars (she said “dollars,” not RMB/kuai/yuan)
Me: All I can eat for 10 dollars?
Her: Yes. But no rice.
Me: OK; I’ll just have the green curry chicken
She brings it, with rice. The curry costs 68 块. I eat, I pay, and the bill is 78块. I ask why it is 10块 more. The answer: that 10块 is for the rice.
The curry was good. But I was confused.
Gustave Flaubert, in his Correspondence, refers to a language-learning struggle of his as his “eternal Greek.” I’ve studied Ancient Greek; it’s not easy, but compared to Chinese? 哈哈哈。
Someday soon I will discuss this in more detail. In the meantime, an example of my homework (before the lovely and wise 清泉got to it). As I said, 哈哈哈。