Monday, October 20, 2008

Taiwan's Favorite Pastime

Comparative Cheering: The Kaohsiung La New Bears had cheerleaders and a large band. The Taipei Brother Elephants had an overweight man donning a plastic bag twisted into Princess Leia buns on his head (pictured above, center).

I've never been much of a baseball fan. My family isn't a sports family, and having grown up in a town without a professional baseball team, I've never bothered to "get it." I've done my best to understand football--Columbus is buckeye country, and though I'll never be a true 'Bucks fan, it's hard not to sympathize when the whole town is hungover the day after a big loss.

Here in Taiwan, they're nuts about baseball. When Chinese Taipei played China in the Olympics, the taxi driver who took me home (much to my horror) kept his eyes glued to his mini TV as he drove. I often find New York Yankees paraphernalia at the local street stands; the Taiwanese go nuts over the Yankees because they have a Taiwanese player.

So when in Taiwan, do as the Taiwanese do.

Left to right: Dani, Kate, Shiela, and I in front of the baseball stadium

The basketball coach from Huashan Elementary School invited us to watch the Kaohsiung vs. Taipei pro baseball game with him. The game was a big deal. There's a huge rivalry between the two urban areas--they're the two biggest cities in Taiwan and Kaohsiung is like Cleveland to Taipei's glittering New York. It's post-industrial, mostly blue-collar, recovering from pretty serious pollution issues, and most of all, kind of fed up with Taipei's disdain for the philistines down South.

Despite the fact that I've never been able to focus for more than 2 innings of a baseball game, I saw it as an opportunity to both assimilate and stick it to the big shots up north!

We all assumed that Coach Pao would root for Kaohsiung--after all, we live in Kaohsiung. So imagine our surprise when we, all dressed in green for the Kaohsiung La New Bears, saw Coach Pao get out of his car wearing yellow for the Taipei Brother Elephants. He was a fan of both teams, he said, but he could get better seats for the Taipei side of the stadium. So he wore his yellow shirt and we sat in front of these people:

Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em (plus yellow is my favorite color).

And that's how I became a Taipei Brother Elephants fan.

*The only things I understand about baseball: food and retail opportunities.

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