Thursday, May 20, 2010

Base - a -bol (yep, another re-run)

I wrote a blog post last night lamenting the demise of convenience store drinking. Then, within 48 seconds, I ran into some people in front of the convenience store and drank with them. This space is no stranger to quickly debunked horseshit, but this was the first time that it was debunked in under one minute. Since I can't post what I wrote yesterday as it is no longer true, and because I'm too lazy to write something else this week, it's time to dig into the archives.

I originally posted this on my old MySpace blog in May of 2007.

I went to a Korean baseball game recently, and it lived up to my expectations in a big way. Sloppy play, strange and complicated chants, cheap beer, loose smoking policies, and cheerleaders – really this game had it all.

The stadium is in the Olympic complex, next to the giant white elephant Olympic Stadium, which is no longer used even for low level Korean league soccer games. The baseball stadium is small, I'd say a capacity of 20,000 at best, and was maybe half full. It's also about the same age as New Comiskey, yet feels as old as Shea. The small crowd was really the only downer. It was the second game of the season, and the first on a weekend day, and it was a beautiful day in the metropolis of 23 million. Seems like such a game would draw more people.

The concession stands are actually convenience store stands, run by a large local c-store chain. They sell hot dogs, at least, along with canned beer, smokes, squid jerky, and your usual convenience needs. Other food options were Burger King and KFC, at normal prices, plus you can bring any type of food (or drink) you want into the stadium.

The altogether set up of the stands is not drastically different from that of a high school football game (or baseball, but who the fuck ever went to a high school baseball game?) with the home team's fans (LG) sitting on the first base side, and the equally large away-team contingent (Kia) sitting on the third base side. Both teams' cheerleaders and drummers were at the front of their respective sections. Also, much like at a high school football game, at least in my day, you can smoke simply by walking up to the higher seats. Still in the lower bowl of course, the stadium only has one deck, which means that every seat is fucking awesome, and even the smoking "areas" provided a great view of the game.

The corporate aspect of the game was quite different from an MLB game. The stadium has no corporate name, there aren't many ads inside the stadium, no commercials on the Jumbotron, and there are no skyboxes. Yet, the teams themselves are named for corporations. Strangely, the corporate moniker replaces the city name rather than the team nickname. It's not Seoul LG versus Gwangju Kia, it's the LG Twins versus the Kia Tigers. It wasn't until speaking to a Korean friend at the bar later that I even learned where Kia hailed from, as their hometown was never mentioned at the game.

There's Thunderstix. Dear god, are there Thunderstix. The LG fans had red ones, and the Kia fans had yellow. I have no fucking clue where they got them, but my buddy and I were probably the only people there without them.

They sell draft beer in the stands. Guys with keg backpacks walk around the stands selling it. A beer is a cool 3 bucks, and just like everywhere else here, there's no tip. There's no seventh inning stretch, but also no last call for beers, which is a trade-off I can live with.

Not surprisingly, professionalism in the MLB sense was lacking from the whole operation. For example, there is a Jumbotron, and the game was televised nationally thus proving that there were cameras at the game, yet they never showed any replays or live action on the screen. In fact, the Jumbotron was blank for most of the game. At the start of each at-bat, they would show a picture of the player batting, his stats, and his name (all in Korean of course, but I could theoretically figure it out) but they would keep this informative screen up for maybe 3 seconds, so it was impossible to actually learn any player names or anything about them at all. There was also a lack of pro-syle on the field as well, as the game was chock full of hilarious errors and 100 km/hour "fast balls."

Perhaps the strangest phenomenon regarding attending a foreign sporting event is the overall foreign-ness of it. By this, I mean the team songs and team cheers that everyone knew. Like a European soccer match, but somehow weirder and more conformist in the Asian style. I sat on the LG side at the game, and LG got their asses kicked, yet everyone was happy all game. I mean, I know, it's baseball, and a day at the ballpark is a day at the ballpark, but this trumped anything I'd seen, even at Wrigley. The crowd seemed quite excited to be losing. At the midpoint of the 9th, and LG down 9-1, there was a rousing round of team songs and chants, with everyone on the LG side singing along. And it wasn't a dwindling crowd, virtually every person stayed until the bitter end, when LG hit into a no-on, 2-out 3-2 fly-out to settle the game at 9-2. Will I go back? I already have tickets for next weekend.


eric said...

somehow despite never having read the original blog and enjoying it - i still feel cheated when you do a rerun. must be the cultural conditioning of growing up with all the shows being reruns all summer long

Jae-hak said...

yeah, i know, reruns are a cheap move, but i only "re-run" stuff that hasn't been on this page before, and that maybe 5 or 6 people have read. then again, those 5 or 6 people are the core audience of this blog, if not its majority.