Tuesday, 31 March 2009

American Sports 101 From The Viewpoint Of An Outsider

When you move to a new country its inevitable that you compare things in your new country to those things of a similar ilk in your homeland. As a sports fan I'll admit to missing the sports that I am used to, especially as the Scottish football season draws to a close and I can't access to the games but I'm trying to make the most of my surroundings by learning to like some new sports. 

However I have to be honest I'm finding it hard to like American Football. For one thing I don't know why its called Football at all. Over here the football they play the ball is lucky to connect with the foot 12 - 14 times in a game (and they need a specialist to do that play) which doesn't really spoil my enjoyment of the game its just a small thing that I've noted.  What does spoil the game for me is the insistence in stopping and starting all the time. I'm used to sports that have continuous play  for 40 to 45 minutes before having an extended break of 10 to 15 minutes. In American Football as far as I have observed it seems that someone will throw the ball a few players will run in the direction of the thrown ball, whilst a few others will have a skirmish and after 20 seconds or so the man in black and white will blow the whistle so that everyone can have a little rest. Except of course the coaches who I believe use their headsets at this time to direct the players next moves. Although I really suspect thats just the rumour that has got about as a cover story for the headsets real use which I believe is linked to the local drive thru burger joint. Have you seen those players? They are seriously big guys, they have a lot of 'natural' padding there, is it any wonder they have to stop the play every 20 seconds or so. All those burgers and cokes add up. Now that stop start nature kind of spoils the game for me. I tend to get bored and fall asleep by the end of the third quarter just when the game should be getting interesting. And I'll be honest I don't get the need for the artificial padding, or the helmets. I grew up playing Rugby when I was 4ft 10' and just skin and bone and I was getting tackled and in turn was tackling guys a foot bigger than I was. Sure it was painful sometimes but it was also fun. Maybe its the high cost of health insurance here or the culture of injury lawyers but I think the game is spoiled by the lack of sighting of the odd broken arm.

I have to admit I much prefer watching Basketball. For me it's a much more exciting game. The play is almost continuous. Its end to end stuff, and the veins in my neck even have the added benefit of getting a workout as the play shifts from one side of the court to the other.

But then there's the National game of Baseball which I can't get my head around. It seems to me that Americans generally take they sport too seriously at times but in Baseball they have taken it to a whole new level of seriousness. In Baseball they have a World Series where I believe only one token gesture Canadian team is invited to take part whilst all other teams are American. And the object of the game is to go home. They never leave! And the English like to say that Americans don't get irony. Hah!

I Possibly Might Suffer For Publishing This Post

I swear that my significant other is a beautiful woman from Chile but looking at her from this position
you could be forgiven for mistaking her for an Arabian princess. But then she does on occasion have those tendencies so maybe I'm just seeing what I want to see.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Short On Money, But Long On Time

I find it hard to believe that come sometime tomorrow it will have been 4 weeks since I moved from Scotland to the State of Utah. Time seems to have flown by. Just 12 months ago it would haven't even crossed my tiny mind that I would ever have moved from Scotland in the first place. I wanted to travel sure, and do so often, but move permanently? Nope! Wasn't on the cards. Certainly not to the USA. And it definitely wouldn't have struck my mind that I would have made such a move when the world economy was suffering from panicking men in business suits shouting "Retreat, Retreat, Retreat!"

Sorry I don't know where that bit of momentary nonsense came from, I'll blame it on the Diet Coke - the Coca Cola Company is big enough to take the blame and I'm small enough to send them some.

Anyway back to normal programming - here I am in Utah and I'm loving it, although still somewhat confused as how circumstances in life can change so rapidly. 12 months ago I knew very little of Utah other than it is a landscape photographers paradise. Yet in just 10 short months after meeting and falling in love with a beautiful Chilean American woman that I adore I've uprooted my life and made the move to a city with strange numbered street names that make a walk around town feel like a double period of mathematics. I'm used to street names like Sauchiehall Street, Argyle Street and Great Western Road and now I'm getting used to Roads with names like something hundred west, something hundred south, something hundred east, and something hundred north.
To be honest I find the new street names less interesting than the older ones I'm more used to, but my significant other will probably just say I'm just looking back with rose tinted specs. I'm not so sure about that but I will admit it is easy to find your way about town with a numbered grid pattern - if you have a car. 

Can't really say the same about walking. Those 6 and 8 lane roads make it a little bit harder to cross a road as a pedestrian. In the land that begat me, pedestrians are king. Not so in the USA. Roads here are not built for people walking. Where I'm from space is limited, so buildings tend to be built upwards, here those same buildings seem to spread outwards, as a result everything here that you could possibly want seems to be further apart. So its not really conducive to walking but I like walking so I stubbornly do it anyway. Why not? I have lots of time on my hands and my girlfriend works nights so I have a lot of daylight hours to waste and a new city to explore. Today I went out for a walk for an hour and I saw 5 people walking the whole time I was out, and one of them was a crossing guard. I've been for a few walks here now, so I'm getting kind of used to the loneliness now, and the sound of the confused dogs barking. Just like Fight Club, nobody mentions Walking Club but members here do look each other in the eye and give each other a silent knowing nod thats says good morning/afternoon depending on the time of day. Back in Glasgow walking was no big deal. Everybody did it. No matter if you owned a car, used the bus, the train or the underground you would still walk somewhere and often. Here, not so much, mostly people just walk from a car parking space to the desired location before returning to the car and driving off to the the next car park. 

Now my girlfriend gives me crap frequently  for my reluctance to upgrade my British driving license to a US drivers license. But I'll be frank, I'm kind of scared to, and not for the reason she thinks. It is not because Americans drive on the opposite side of the road but the fact I feel like I would probably kill some unsuspecting walker. I mentioned that back home pedestrians are king. Not so here. In this country you can get arrested for the heinous crime of jay walking. And even when you have waited patiently at a pedestrian crossing it can take up to 8 minutes before the lights say "ok now you may walk - Freak!!!" How do I know this? I looked at my watch whilst waiting to cross an 8 lane road on a return trip from Walmart. Even when you have waited this length of time to legally cross as a pedestrian you still very much gambling your life as I discovered one and half seconds later after stepping on to the road with 7 bags of shopping in my arms. Now I walk fast but I wasn't expecting the lights to count me down '20, 19, 18....' on an 8 lane road after just 1 and half seconds. I kind of assumed someone would have programmed the pedestrian crossing to take into account the speed of little old ladies with hip replacements, but I forgot little old ladies in this country don't walk, they drive 4x4's. And by the time the pedestrian crossing had counted 17 one such 4x4 turned the corner and narrowly missed my backside. Had I been a weaker person I may have shit my pants. In fact had I ate Mexican food for breakfast I may still have shit my pants no matter how strong a person I am - that stuff seriously shifts a lot of toilet paper. Anyway I had no time to jump up and down with rage at the near miss as now I had 16 seconds to cross 6 and half lanes. By the time I was half way across I still had the right of way for 12 more seconds, or so I thought. Mistakenly as it happens because by now traffic was moving behind me and in front. Its no wonder dogs bark in a confused manner when I walk past their yard, its probably because after the mail has been delivered they haven't seen anyone walking all day.  Still despite it all, I persist in walking, if I can handle walking in the cold wet streets of Glasgow I can handle walking in the cold but blue sky days of Utah. Besides there is less chance of killing someone that way. I half suspect that if I drove here that there would be a small but significant chance that I would kill or injure some unsuspecting pedestrian and as much as I like American living I really don't want to visit an American prison. Besides at the moment I have too much time to kill so I may as well discover the city this way, at least until I can afford to invest in a bike.