People who’ve never been anywhere in their lives might not understand the significance of a pastry. We live in a country where stripmalls and concrete have rendered character obsolete, where you can’t tell if you’re in California or Ohio or Florida because chain corporations have ripped the individuality out of most places. It’s gotten to the point where Applebeesification has even conquered ballparks – you can’t go to a game these days without some type of mascot race, a which-hat/ice-cream-container/crab-has-the-ball scramble, and the same music and cheers as everyone else. Even fan traditions have been Xeroxed from other cities. For example, Reds fans copied throw-back-the-homer from Chicago and woo-at-the-moon from Pittsburgh. Sure, there are still some traits unique to certain parks – Sweet Caroline in Boston, Skyline Chili in Cincinnati, Phillies phans booing their own children – but go to Citizens Bank Park or Citi Field or Nationals Park and you could possibly forget which city you’re in.
So it’s not surprising that some people don’t understand why a man from an impoverished dictatorship who left his country and family behind to pursue a dream would stuff himself with pastries that taste like home. Wait, let me say that again…who left his country and family behind to pursue a dream…and some people are accusing him of not wanting to play the game, of not caring?
For the past week, I’ve been addicted to this game, GeoGuessr, which plops you down in some part of the world at Google Street View and you’re supposed to figure out where you are. You use road signs, flora, bodies of water, terrain, direction, the way the lines are painted on the road, the cars driven, anything to help you figure out where you are. Most of those places I will never see – remote towns in Arctic Norway, dry desert roads in northern South Africa, industrial towns in the middle of Russia – and I like the game even more because of this. However, when I am put into the American or Canadian suburbs, I throw my hands in the air. Olive Garden. Red Lobster. Applebees. Anytown, USA.
But – we are also a nation of immigrants who brought various styles and cultures to this land, and when we get to our great cities, we still find the character and soul that makes them places worthy of visiting and remembering. Clam chowder in Boston. Crabcakes in Baltimore. Cheesesteak in Philly. Tex-Mex in Austin. And then there are those unique places that pop up all over our urban landscapes, places like that Cuban bakery from where Aroldis Chapman bought the pastries, pastries that tasted like home to him. Yes, he went overboard. But to use his bad judgment as evidence he doesn’t care about the game? Get off your couch and visit the real world.
If you don’t ever leave your town, you don’t understand what it’s like to find a place where you can get something authentic you can’t find outside of another place. I can’t imagine that those who would question Chapman’s commitment to the game have much travel experience since they can’t seem to understand why he’d stuff himself full of those pastries. When your idea of going out to dinner is driving to the local Applebees, I wonder if you can conceive the notion that something is rare enough that one would stuff himself upon finding it. And when you think that a guy who can never return to his country doesn’t care about the thing he gave up his country to pursue, well, you just lack empathy and compassion. Also, intelligence.
So he blew a save. It’s one game, and the Reds have a .600 record. We have probably the best closer in baseball. Quit whining.