In 1986 I went to the USA for the first time. I had just started a new job and didn’t have much money. It cost me ten French francs to get one dollar. But I was lucky to be hosted at friends of friends’ in the heart of Manhattan.
Among the many things my hosts encouraged me to do when they were at work or did with me, one is returning to my memory today.
On my last weekend in NYC, they decided that no trip to the USA would be truly American without a baseball game. Now, most people know that French reputation isn’t made in the stadiums yet many believe that French are expert at two sports: football called soccer in the USA and cycling because of the Tour de France.
The truth is that the majority of French consider the daily walks to the café and the boulangerie exercise. At my school, getting an excuse for skipping PE was a form of sport itself. So, an invitation to a baseball game, even in New York City, didn’t appeal to me very much. Yet, as I had decided to see as much of the USA as possible, I accepted.
We rode a crowded and smelly subway to go to the baseball park. That part was actually the most familiar of the night since a subway is a subway no matter where you live. Yet, a difference with my Parisian métro struck me as we got closer to our terminus point. People were talking and joking with each other and if the fast and joyful conversations came to my French ears as foreign as Martian, I knew it was the game that put people in such a friendly mood. Maybe, I thought, it won’t be too bad.
We elbowed our way from the subway exit to the baseball park, bumping into enthusiastic fans. It wasn’t very different from the concerts I was used to attend at Le Parc des Princes in Paris. Except for the baseball hats, the shorts and sneakers, the American baseball fans looked pretty similar to the French pop music fans.
As we inched our way to the gates, a tantalizing smell wafted to me as mouth watering as the bread I bought out of the oven each night for dinner. I never got used to eat early American dinners but that day, I couldn’t resist. My friends ordered food and I ate my first American hot dog and its trimmings. I had a great time watching people cheering their favorite team. The mood was friendly and joyful.
I don’t know the name of the teams who played that night or where they played. I don’t know who won. I knew nothing of baseball and still don’t.
Yet, for the length of a baseball game, I was almost an American.
Tomorrow is Homecoming at UC Berkeley where my daughter is a second year student. My family is visiting her and we bought tickets for the football game.
It will be my first football game. I don’t know football any better that I knew baseball in 1986.
But I am now an American and I can’t wait to join the crowd of proud UC Berkeley parents and supporters and cheer with them: