It’s a Party in the USA

SUSI Scholars and Student Leaders from Europe in the stands at Chase Field

Let me just say that I am not a sports person. I thought I should lead off this blog post with that statement. But I also think that this statement is for me first and foremost, and not so much for my readers, because I am still trying to figure out how I could so enjoy this baseball game that was a part of our cultural experience during the 4th of July here at the SUSI’s Scholars program. I think i’ve got the answer–and you can chill out Bruno, it doesn’t mean that you were a sports person all along.

Baseball is a very unique game. It’s not like basketball or soccer, where everything is happening all at once at a very frenetic pace. Baseball takes time and patience, but it’s also a very intuitive game. After a few minutes of paying attention, I was on track with everything–well, perhaps not things like players’ names and their backgrounds, the hardcore fan stuff. The Arizona Diamondbacks played the San Francisco Giants and the home team got the match. Maybe with a little help from some international lucky charms.

The first clue for my excitement was based on context. This was the largest crowd I have ever seen live since the beginning of the pandemic, so of course I was overwhelmed.  That made me want to be an actual part of that moment. People were having fun, giving smiles away, playing along to some of the intermission games, and families were together. It was the 4th of July, but it wasn’t an excessive caricature. People were there for the game, and to just actually be there… to share in the moment.

Chase Field in Phoenix, the stands full of baseball fans
The Arizona Diamondbacks played the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field on July 4th. (The Diamondbacks won with a final score of 8-3)

That’s why my second clue is that baseball is actually not about the game, but about the people. You can’t say that about many sports. A soccer game in Brazil is always a very strictly focused experience. You’ve got to watch the ball as much as the players, and social interactions have to wait until after the game. You’ve got to scream at every move and there’s a lot of tension going on. I got that when I was down on the main floor and most of the people were actually just walking around, not paying that much attention to the game. 

When I least expected, I got my hands up, because they’re playin’ my song and I know it’s gonna be okay. It’s a party in the U.S.A., I was part of it and it seems I’ve got hooked on that feeling. With that being said, I should now put my scholar’s hat on…

It was the French art curator and critic Nicolas Bourriaud who first coined the expression “relational aesthetics,” to mean “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.” To him, rather than the artwork being an encounter between a viewer and an object, it “produces” an encounter between people.

I’m not here to call baseball an art after seeing just one game, but simply to say that the logic applies. Some sports are more about the individual contact with the match, and in this case the players–perhaps without even realizing that’s what they are doing–are conducting the very “art of the encounter,” so to speak. It makes sense that this particular game is important during Independence Day as a way to celebrate what makes us a community.

SUSI Scholars in the stands, enjoying ballpark food and waiting for the game to start
SUSI Scholars in the stands, enjoying ballpark food and waiting for the game to start. Baseball is about people, and relations–and so is SUSI.

I also think that this exquisite association between a French art critic from the 60s and Miley Cyrus is a way to understand that this baseball game was one of the very first experiences that made me feel welcomed in America. And as the most important part of that equation would say, I will just let the butterflies fly away and register that it was really fun! I can’t believe I’m going to say this on the record, but I will probably check out the Diamondbacks in the days to come!