Saturday, March 16, 2013

Keep That Flag Raised High

This morning, after I poured my coffee and turned around to travel the small walk to my computer, my eyes searched for a coaster so as not to chance a coffee ring anywhere. When my eyes finally found what my brain finds familiar in the coaster universe, the American Flag was once again in my consciousness. There on the mini-bar of my mom's place were 4 American Flag coasters, and I was reminded of last night's loss to Puerto Rico.

The American Flag is not necessarily something that has ever been in my household THAT much. I remember when I used to live on Any Block USA/Rendale Avenue in Richmond, VA, that we would interchange flags on the front door of our house, as most of the block did and I'm sure as most of you who grew up on a block like that can remember (and/or currently still practice.) I don't have as much of a memory of it on Cordova Road in West Palm, but apartment circumstances in Manhattan led to a different relationship with the flag than what I had within the world of the Suburban Americana Household. It is a very strong flag, and one that is unique in design when flying high next to the other nations' flags of the world. Here in New York City, the American Flag is constantly flying next to other nations; an entire world represented within its borders.

Stil, in Manhattan, you can usually find an American Flag within a block to a block and a half radius of one another. They are on the outside of bars, in Arab-owned delis, randomly hanging outside of somebody's window...  

In the outer boroughs, especially in those neighborhoods with many Americana-style blocks of houses, it is raised above the door next to a Mets, Yankees, Giants or Jets flags (and so on in our sports world and so forth.) When you really think about it, it is a comfortable symbol. One that subtlely reminds you that no matter how messed up politics are, how screwed up war is, how corrupt public officials can be and/or all that jazz that can piss off both the majority and the minority, all us citizens are some lucky SOBs.

That should humble us, and strengthen our patriotism (not create an arrogant and hollow presentation of what that is.)

Last night, Brooklyn-born-to-Puerto Rican-(Met fan)-parents Nelson Figueroa pitched quite possibly the game of his life, stifling the USA batters for 6 innings, not allowing the 2 baserunners to reach against him make it to 2nd base (and when J-roll tried with 2 out in the 6th, Yadier Molina gunned him down.) Right behind home plate and throughout the stands, Puerto Rican Flags flapped in people's arms, most certainly outnumbering the amount of American Flags being flapped around. They were loud and never stopped being loud, even as their small uneasy 1-0 lead held firm until the top of the 6th, when a questionable pitching change of Ryan Vogelsong (who was still 8 pitches off the limit) led to Puerto Rico breaking through for 3 more runs. Not to say there were not loud American exceptions and with Flags throughout, but we were certainly not overpowering the Puerto Ricans (as we did not against the Dominicans.)

[That's mainly because I wasn't there to single-voicedly overpower an entire Miami-crowd-size stadium worth of Puerto Ricans, which helps when attempting to get other Americans involved.]

Let's put aside the argument on whether or not Puerto Rico should have their own national team when they are not even a nation. They should not be penalized for the little bit of imperialism left over. As brought up by Michael Lecolant and discussed on this week's podcast, Americans don't do a great job at nationalism in their sports rooting. I attributed it to the saturation of sports franchises throughout the land, with each very concerned with their brand and the fans very concerned with that brand as well, many walking advertisements as they make their way around their respective cities and towns (and around the country and world.) The American Nationalism debate is one that can go on forever (and the tinier discussion of it should be listened to on the podcast...) but for the sake of this post, let's stick to our characteristics and traits when it comes to rooting in general.

When we as baseball fans are taken out of our element at the game, when our team is not doing well and/or the game gets completely out of hand, we generally get very introverted, leading to a much quieter rooting environment. When we break our silence, its mostly to shrug and quietly say to the ones sitting around us, "If this had been different..." or "If that had been different..."  It's not till our teams start something back up that we get juiced again. Whether or not that's a flaw in our fandom is another discussion, but in the moment of a WBC game, it might not be lack of Nationalism that is keeping us subdued, but our rooting habits instead.

The Coaster
I never feel more American than when I'm watching baseball, and especially when I'm right behind home plate, the American Flag is raised high and flapping mellifluously in the wind, the National Anthem is struck up by the band and the caps are off, placed over our hearts. There are many reasons why I believe the American team keeps coming up short in these tournaments (including my opinion that Joe Torre was a step behind and a generation too old for what managing calls for in this new age product that is the World Baseball Classic.)

Maybe, just maybe, the way we root is a reason too.

It was unfortunate that our Captain America had to go down, but he did what he continues to do, which is play through injury (and well) and represent the brand across his chest (whether its Mets or the country that allows for his prosperity) as well as anybody ever has. Forget the argument about whether or not the tournament is worth it or whether its timing is off; David Wright opened some players' eyes to how much pride you should have for the country you call home, and the one that perfected that ancient practice of bat and ball.

I love New York City and have a lot of pride in these 5 boroughs. My pride, however, is certainly based in pride for America. New York City only exists because of America, and the fact it was the greatest portal into this country the land presented to us (possibly the greatest harbor in the world.)

This City is as American as it gets.

I was very happy for Figueroa, as I don't believe he was given the respect he deserves from the former Mets regime, and never got the chance to become the "Puerto Rican Greg Maddux" with his hometown team. He was given quite the chance to do it in an elimination game for the island he considers helped give him his existence. He was nasty, and I'm proud of him, as I'm positive his dad with the brick outside Citi Field is at this very moment as well.

It will be time, however, to take back this sport of ours in 2017. I don't want to hear the March excuse, and you know the players (at least some of them) won't allow themselves to give that excuse.

We'll grab the title one day.
Long live the USA.


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