Long, long ago, I used to be a schoolteacher in Santiago, Chile. So, so, so long ago. It was 2002, before the invention of the iPod. I left and had never heard of such a thing. I return one year later, and everybody I see has these strange white box-like things plugged into their heads. These are the perils of leaving home. (I should add, however, that not everything changes. The week I left for Chile, Brad, Jen, and Angelina were on the cover of People. The week I came back, 15 months later, Brad, Jen, and Angelina were on the cover of People.)
I loved my job in Santiago, where I taught English in an all-girls private Catholic day school. The teachers were awesome (by and large) and the students thought I hung the moon (go figure), so I had it pretty sweet. My favorite class to teach was the 10th grade class because they were super advanced English speakers, and I could avoid endless repetition of verb conjugations. (I go, you go, s/he goes, we go, they go. I die, you die, s/he dies, we die, they die.) I longed for something different, and then one day it happened.
We were doing a unit on American hobbies, obsessions, and sports. In keeping with my 10th graders' dazzling collective intellect, we finished way ahead of the other classes, and ended up with time in which to twiddle our thumbs. I brought in some old Cosmo, Elle, and Vanity Fairs, and somehow as my students flipped through the pages, the subject of baseball came up, and how they had no idea how it even worked.
What?! Not understanding how baseball worked seemed like, well, er... I was going to say un-American, but then again, I was in Chile. It seems quite natural, in that light. But for some reason, this still stunned me, probably because it all seems so simple. First, Second, Third, Home. Pitcher, Catcher, Batter. Shortstop. Outfield. Three strikes you're out, three outs, change sides. What the heck is complicated about that?
Feeling quite sure of myself, I proceeded to make up some nifty worksheets with cute stick-figure illustrations, explained the rules in what I was sure was a clear and concise fashion, and borrowed a ball and bat from a student who'd recently been to the United States. Well armed with equipment, materials, informational worksheet, and a sunny day, we sallied forth into the grassy field next to the school, set on learning a new sport.
Ah, vanity, ah, folly, ah, mirth! Babe Ruth would have rolled over in his grave. By the end of the hour I was on the ground, crying with laughter, praying I didn't lose control of my bladder and drop my contents. There really is no other way to describe what happened other than to say it was mass hysteria. A runner rounding first sees somebody throw the ball to second. Well, duh, she thinks. If I go to second, I'll get out for sure, so she bowls over the pitchers mound in a dead sprint to third. Her team, naturally, was delighted, and if you think I should've enforced the rules more carefully, you've never gone up against 13 lunatic girls who REALLY want to win.
One pitcher was so markedly lacking in talent that the girls started wrapping their sweaters around their heads turban-style to prevent any permanent brain damage. And that was the good pitcher. An outfielder saw perfect logic in throwing the ball to home plate every time, even when a runner was on her way to first. That way it's absolutely for sure that they're out, right? I mean, they can't cross home without getting out. Another girl was an absolute terror with the baseball bat. Not only would she knock the stuffing out of the ball when she was at bat, but then she would launch the bat itself into orbit, nearly breaking plate glass windows and, in one memorable and particularly dangerous instance, a passerby's face. All of this was merely backdrop for the mosh pit of shrieking, laughing girls who all abandoned their positions at every hit in a misguided attempt to catch the ball amoeba-style. Near the end of the hour I looked up at the school building and on all three floors every window was full of faces, the other students and teachers having abandoned even a pretense of learning anything in their classes, and thoroughly enjoying the show we were putting on down below.
The game ended well, Yankees 4, Mets 176.