Friday, June 18, 2010

Lost in Translation

“Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand.”

- Wes Westrum

On Thursday I was called to sub at my former school for the second day in a row. But instead of having my beloved sixth-graders, this time I’d sub kindergarten. (This wasn’t the kindergarten class that had the boy every teacher feared would “blow up”.) When I arrived, the assistant said she planned to sub the class. She didn’t want an assistant because she wouldn’t get the extra sub money on top of her salary. Not only that, she said there wasn’t supposed to be a sub. Fabulous.

I went to the office, called the sub line and left a message, waited for a call back, got a call back and was told, “she called in sick but didn’t say she had the assistant subbing the class”, and was then offered a job to sub gym at the school where the Jerry Springer incident occurred the week before, so I took it, ran home and changed, and rushed to the school just before the bell rang. ...Breathe out.

The sub job was fine except for one preschool class where boys behaved much like Damian from the Omen. NOT an exaggeration. If they’d been left unsupervised, I’m sure children would have died.

That night we had tickets to the Red Sox game. Once a year, the assistant principal at my children’s school gets a block of tickets in the bleachers for us to buy. It’s a lot of fun for the kids, who don’t care much about the game, but often socialize with their friends and beg for food that all the vendors carry up and down the steps. “Get your hotdogs heya!”

While most of our seats were in a block, in front of us sat two men who were NOT from the school. Here and there I heard them speak in what I thought were Eastern European accents. Atop their heads were two brand new Red Sox baseball caps. At some point, the man on the right turned around and asked my husband the score. Then he said it was his first Red Sox game.

As the game progressed, so did their drinking and chattiness. The man on the left seemed less confident speaking English and increasingly embarrassed by his friend’s rowdiness. The man of the right loved chanting, “Let’s go Red Sox; let’s go!” so much that he’d stand and command our bleacher neighbors to join in. Because it was also game seven of the Lakers vs. Celtics, he also tried to get a round going of, “Beat LA!” (Sadly, we didn’t beat LA.)

But some chants were lost in translation. When Kevin Youkilis went up to bat, the crowd yelled its ususal, “YOOOOOUUUUUUK.” The men in front of us began to shout, “Boo!” and put their thumbs down. I tapped the man on the right, explaining, “It’s You, for Youkilis,” pointing to the sign with his name on it. Shrugging with an embarassed smile, he then pulled a pint-sized t-shirt with the player’s name on it and declared, “For my son.”

From then on we were buddies. The man on the right always liked the Celtics because they wear green, just like his soccer team.He told us that he and his best friend were from the Czech Republic. His friend was visiting his sister in Chelsea, and took him along. They spent two days in New York, but liked Boston better because it looked like Eastern European cities. He lived in Prague and owned a pub. We were invited to visit anytime for cheap food and drink, and he’d show us the city.

We told him about our wedding in Serbia, further bonding us. And we answered any questions he had about America, sports, and Boston.

He went for a beer run, turning to my husband and I, asking, “Do you want a beer?” We both declined. A few minutes later, he returned with two beers, declaring, “One man. Only two beers.” Then he handed my husband and his friend one. Refusing to take money, he took off again. A few minutes later he again returned with two beers and said the same line, handing me a beer and keeping one for himself. I hate beer. So I’d drink a little, my husband would drink faster, and then we’d switch, until both beers were gone.

At some point, my daughter needed to pee and procure a drink (which would cause a future bathroom break, I was sure) so we asked the men if they wanted beer. They said they would buy, but we insisted. After finding a restroom, and buying water and three beers (since I didn’t want one), we returned to find they’d bought four beers in our absence so now we had SEVEN beers.

This was déjà vu all over again. When my husband and I visited Serbia about three years ago, my we were jetlagged, without luggage, and in a country very different from our own. That night, still without a change of clothing and few toiletries, we attended the rehearsal dinner at my husband’s best friend’s fiancée’s parents’ home. All night, the mother and father kept bringing us clothes and shoes in case our luggage didn’t arrive on the next day’s flight. And the father kept giving us shots of some really, really strong stuff that tasted like grappa. Not wanting to be rude, I took the first. After that, I declined. The father, who didn’t speak English, pretended he didn’t understand, “No.” He’d smile and pour more. At first, I’d give it to my husband, but concerned he’d get alcohol poisoning, I resorted to pouring the shots in large potted plant. Sorry plant.

The night became more surreal as it went on (and not from me, since I hardly touched my beer), but from my husband (who may or may not have hidden beers under his seat) and the two men, who had many cups of beer to finish. After the seventh inning, the man wanted going to buy ANOTHER round, but I told him the bar closed after the seventh inning. This news was as shocking to him as when he asked where he could smoke a cigarette, and I explained he’d have to leave the stadium.

They thoroughly enjoyed singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Sweet Caroline”. I pointed to the screen so they’d know the lyrics. The man on the right was waaaay into the wave, even standing to let our area know when it was coming (as if we couldn’t see it). And when music came on after a great play, he’d dance along. (I tried to get a picture of this but my camera ran out of batteries.)

In the eighth inning, my husband bet the men $1 over what the final score would be. Probably because they’d had so much to drink, they kept to double-checking which score they picked. My husband lost his dollar when the Sox won against Arizona 8-5. After many high-fives, handshakes, and promises to see one another in Prague, we parted ways.

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game.”

- Walt Whitman


  1. Oh, I liked you before, but now... now I adore you! My favorite thing in the world is baseball (but I'm an A's fan). Your game sounds like it was a great time, and every bit what a good ball game should be! :-)

  2. Wow, that's a cool story! I think that's one of the advantages to living in a larger city-you get to meet people from all over. In a smaller town (like mine) strangers are usually avoided, sadly. However, I have met people through my evening classes at school and it's interesting to get to know them, their culture...and I'm a sucker for accents!

  3. hahaha...I am not a sports fan generally speaking. I go to the odd game with hubbers now and again, but usually amuse myself with the crowd instead of the game.

    Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

  4. I'm not really a baseball fan (can you blame me? My home team is the O's...sorry, too many disappointments there has pretty much ruined the sport for me) but I love your story! The camaraderie is great and it's always good to know that there are still friendly strangers out there!

  5. I've never been a spectator at a sporting event... and to hear you tell it I feel almost tempted to admit that I'm missing out on something. But then I already knew that, I just wouldn't admit it. ; j

    The beer part reminds me of both the Polish and Romanian weddings I went to a few years back. I remember shocking everyone by not drinking any alcohol, and getting adopted for out eating the locals (who can seriously put the stuff away). I'd like to salute the mother of the Romanian bride's cooking, it was top notch! The kind that makes restaurant guidebook people say that for true local fare you need to get invited for a family meal. Judging from the amounts she cooked I suspect she was used to cooking for a regiment instead of a family, but it was wonderfully delicious.

  6. Now why can't I bump into lovely eastern european peoples and get free beer!!??! I must be quite sad as I'm envious of the PLANT in Serbia! LOL!

    I'm so sorry about that class of Damians that your had to teach.

    Aww but the baseball story is lovely! You and your family must be the friendliest peoples on this planet!!! You are so sweet to make these men who are so far from home welcome and help them enjoy the game.

    Speaking of sports - USA and Serbia are doing very well in the World Cup and may even make it to the final 16!!! Blow those vuvuzelas is what I say.


    take care

  7. Baseball is my favorite, but I would call myself a fickle fan. When I was a kid, my father and brother were Dodger fans, so I was, when I lived in NYC, I was a Met fan( went to many games and knew all the players on the team, even named a cat that I had after the center fielder), when I lived in Colorado, I was a Rocky fan and now since my husband roots for the Phillies, I just root for them just to be supportive. I must admit though, I still am a Met fan at heart. The fun of baseball is the beer and of course the hotdogs!

  8. The whole essence of a professional baseball game is just a world unto itself, isn't it? An amazing one, at that!

  9. @ Shannon O'Donnell, it was a good game too.

    @ The Words Crafter, I hear different accents everyday, and don't even think about it. Irish, Welsh, and British accents are my favorite.

    @ Vicki Rocho, I used to be like you, but now I get into them. This game was the except due to these guys who were very distracting!

    @ aLmYbNeNr, you should give a game a try. Usually what's going on in the crowd is an entertaining as the game itself (if not more so).

    Sorry about your home team. That's how it was for Red Sox fans when I first moved here in 2001.

  10. @ Alesa Warcan, Eastern Europeans know how to eat and drink. Now I want to get an invite to someone's house.

    Going to each type of sport has its own dynamics. Those two guys were talking about rowdy soccer games in their country, and how calm baseball fans are in comparison.

    @ Old Kitty, their generosity with free beer was nice. These guys were the friendly ones. Other parents from our school thought they were our friends.

    It's nice that USA and Serbia are doing well. It's making for an interesting World Cup.

    @ Choices, I didn't follow baseball in NY (though I think most of my family were Mets fans). But I got fickle with basketball. I got so mad about how the team got ruined in the years before we moved. I stayed a Knicks fan despite, but then I couldn't watch many New York games, and eventually....

    @ Joanne, it is a world unto itself. I agree!

  11. That is so great! What an experience! Those guys will never forget you and your family.

  12. That is such a funny story! I'd hide the beers under my seat as well. :)

  13. That's the great thing about sporting events (or anything that draws crowds of people). Whether you enjoy the sport or not, there are always interesting people to meet and enjoy. People watching is one of my favorite things to do but when you can connect with them, it's even better :)

  14. @ Bossy Betty, I guess it depends on how much more they drank after they saw us. The night's events may have gotten fuzzy.

    @ Aubrie, some people have way more alcohol tolerance than me.

    @ Jaydee, there's definitely camaraderie at sports events.

  15. Sounds fun! All those beers, though... The "YOOOUUU" boo thing made me laugh!

    I've only been to a couple baseball games, and while they were fun, I prefer playing the game, although it's been a few years since I have. And I was disheartened that the Lakers won. I'm a San Antonio Spurs fan so the Lakers are the enemy... Grr...

  16. @ Amanda, I always root for anyone who is against the Lakers. In fact, I was hoping the Phoenix Suns would've won the last round.

    The first time I heard the "Yooouuu" thing, I thought it was "Boo" too. And coming from NY, fans boo - A LOT.

  17. What a great story! I wish that I'd been there with you even though it was a Red Sox game!

  18. @ Kathleen, you grew up in Queens - you should be a Mets fan. Then you wouldn't mind Red Sox games.

  19. Sounds like a great day out at the ballpark! So when are you off to the Czech Republic??? You globetrotter you! My boys played baseball Little League actually when we moved to the US. That was enough baseball for me. Sorry to say I find the game slow as molasses. Don't tell my boys...PLeeaasse.

  20. I was giggling when I read this because it reminded me so much of my husband and his Egyptian family. No matter how many times you tell them YOU DON'T WANT ANYTHING, somehow you end up with so much food that you feel like bursting! There's no such thing as no when it comes to food and drink!

  21. @ Ann, since they only bought us beer and not tickets, so far no trip planned. My husband is now thinking we should go to the wedding in the South of France, and then head to Prague. He's been advocating for Prague for years because his best friends' parents have an apartment there. (His best friend's mom is from Prague.)

    As far as baseball, I used to feel like you too. But the live games have the crowd and at home I can check up on blogs while keeping an eye on the game.

    @ Talli, I have to admire cultures that are like that. They want to make their guests feel like family. We're supposed to be full and happy. (And drunk?)

  22. This was both heart-warming and funny. I'm still laughing over the beer. It sounds like y'all had a great time.

  23. @ Helen, I'm glad you enjoyed it. We did have a great time.

  24. I love it when you can find bond with strangers and share a smile.

  25. What a cool story! Baseball puts me to sleep, literally, so I've never attended a game, but I've been to plenty of basketball and football games and meeting and connecting with others is half the fun.

  26. @ Lydia, it was fun to bond with these strangers.

    @ VR Barkowski, because baseball is slower, the people around you become more interesting. I love basketball games, but I notice the audience less because I'm focus on the game!

  27. Lovely story, Theresa, nowadays we have a such a natural instinct to keep our distance from people.
    Thankfully, like yourself, I ignore this and love meeting new people.
    They sound like fun, actually they sound Irish.
    I have never been to Prague but it is supposed to be stunning.

  28. What a great story Theresa!!! I love meeting new people and your stories always inspire me to make sure I do!

  29. @ Brigid, that's funny you think they sound Irish. I've had great times hanging out with Irish people and found them really friendly, but they've tried plied me with drinks like Eastern Europeans.

    @ Jen, meeting new people has the added bonus of having material for a post.

  30. What a delightful account of making a new friend. It sounds like your baseball experience was enhanced by this encounter even without the beverage.

  31. Socializing is the one reason I go to games. The first quote had me laughing. I have never understood the game, even though I spent two months of my life in coaching!
    Great story...:)

  32. This is now officially my favorite post of yours, of course! You KNOW how much I love the Red Sox, and YOUK is my main man...LOL. GREAT story! And something that you know just had to happen at Fenway...that place is magical :)

  33. @ Paul C, I didn't drink much beer, so it was just fun for me.

    @ Mr. Stupid, I'm glad it's not just me. I swear I need a rule repeated about five times before it sticks. And there are so many things to memorize, like RBI. Just when I think I've got it, some new rule comes up. Like that stupid (no offense) one about a person on base being allowed to come to home if it's likely the ball would've gotten them in. Or something like that. It came up recently, and so I had to look it up. I still (obviously) don't understand it.

    @ Ant, you would like the picture book Zachary's Ball. It's a book about the magic of Fenway. I love it there.

  34. Oh, go to Prague! It is so beautiful - like a fairy-tale city. An expensive one.

  35. @ Talli, it's funny you should say that. The guy insisted it would be cheap for food and drink. Oh well! All cities are expensive, I guess.

  36. Oh that Serbian stuff is strong!! The plant may be used to it by now though :)

    Apparently the trick is don't ever leave a glass empty, as soon as the host sees an empty glass/plate he feels compelled to refill it....

  37. I love singing Sweet Caroline! Awesome. Also, it's hilarious that you dumped your shots out on the plant--so clever!!

    And your preschoolers from the Omen cracked me up! Subbing sounds like such an adventure!!!

  38. @ Hampshireflyer, sage advice about not drinking it. Next time! I hope you're right about the plant...

    @ MBW aka Olleymae, signing Sweet Caroline is fun.

    The preschoolers ran. The boys hurt one another on purpose. We played a beanbag game with a "no throwing - only sliding rule". What do you think they did with the beanbags?