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By James Stewart on 14.8.2023

Tales from the other side of the pond (Part 4)

George Bernard Shaw once observed that the US and the UK are ‘two nations divided by a common language’, which is true enough, at one party I attended, saying I was ‘going out for a fag’ was nearly enough to have me lambasted by our colonial cousins as a homophobic hate-monger.

Yet Bernard Shaw’s observation is, at least for me, a dated cliché. As anyone from the UK who has lived in America for a prolonged amount of time will tell you its not language, but sports, which is the really divisive concept between our two nations. Common sports such as rugby are known as ‘football’, and played at a staggeringly slow speed by relatively large men in excessive padding. Netball is called ‘B-ball’ and played, not by young primary school girls, but by huge men with palms the size of pumpkins. Whilst rounders is known as ‘baseball’ and is played by sportsmen who seem to display all the athleticism of a tub of lard. Indeed, you’d be forgiven for thinking that beer guts the size of boulders is mandatory in order to qualify for the Major League.

Facetious as this all is, the fact is that the US and UK, whilst having somewhat similar games, have never really adopted either nations sport. So when the Major League Baseball World Series started to crop up on the television now and again I’d watch it intently, trying to open my somewhat closed sporting mind, and to my surprise I did start to enjoy it…that was until one unforgettable night in November.
Skip forward to the World Series Final as I sit in my dorm room watching the Boston Red Sox take on the Colorado Rockies for the title. It’s the bottom of the ninth and it all rests on this pitch from the Red Sox Mike Lowell, he lines it up, and its extraordinarily saved for the third time by catcher Jonathan Paplebon as the Sox go on to win the World Series!

Umass erupts around me, the level of excitement and celebration only comparable to an England FIFA World Cup victory. I go to open my window to hear the joyous sounds of celebration wash over me, but as I do I’m struck by the words of advice a friend of mine gave to me months before: ‘Be sure to keep your windows closed around the time of the World Series, its likely the cops will be using tear gas and last year a lot of people complained about it getting in through their windows’.

I’d laughed it off at the time, but as I saw with my very eyes the sea of people that had descended into the southwest residential area began to scream and run as plumes of smoke shot up and lingered menacingly in the night sky. So I did the only sensible thing anyone would do in the situation, I ran outside to see what all the fuss was about.

Standing outside Patterson Dorm I was frozen in fear and amazement as old Bostonian songs rang out in the night sky and as students were dragged kicking and screaming into the back of police cars.

A siren rang out to my left and the tens of hundreds of students surrounding me all turned to see the cold hard exterior of 20 umass police officers in riot gear. I was more than willing to return to the safety of my room, and the loading of the cop’s rubber bullet guns, coupled with their proclamation that those of us loitering would be ‘dealt with accordingly’ only quickened my pace.

Although the police presence was vital, due to the previous years damage to university property, I couldn’t help feeling it exacerbated things. All the American students wanted to do was celebrate their team’s victory, but it had to be done in a calm and sober manner not of their own accord but facing down the barrel of a gun. This curtailing of the natural freedom of expression left me with a bitter taste of regret in my mouth, as I somehow seemed to have taken for granted the huge amount of freedom we have to protest, celebrate, perform, and generally express ourselves on our beloved UoK campus. The American Dream of freedom and liberty seemed to be on this particular evening just that, a dream.

Part 1 – http://www.inquirelive.co.uk/node/625
Part 2 – http://www.inquirelive.co.uk/node/668
Part 3 – http://www.inquirelive.co.uk/node/720

Part 5 – http://www.inquirelive.co.uk/node/825

Comments

  • I’m sure you get fed up of the plaudits, but another well written, engaging piece. You even made me feel sorry for the Yanks which demonstrates your huge powers of persuasion 😛

    By Nick Gill on 15.8.2023

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