Before this year, I’d been to baseball games just two times in my life, and they were both soOOOooo mind-numbingly boring. I’ve come to associate baseball with the highest level of boredom, on par with watching paint dry. No, wait, it’s more boring than that. Just hearing the word “baseball” makes my eyes glaze over. Ohmygod, I’m falling asleep right now, just writing about it.
BUT! When I was in Korea, I willingly went to baseball games twice in one week. Miracle! I don’t know what happened. Even though I hate baseball, the games in Korea were so entertaining and engaging that I somehow found myself cheering and jeering and singing and dancing and doing all sorts of weird, obnoxious things that hard core fans do.
So what’s so special about watching baseball in Korea? I had to ask The Husband, because I’d never been awake during a U.S. baseball game and couldn’t pick out the differences.
1. There is much more audience participation. I’m not sure if this is the case for all baseball stadiums in Korea, but at the Jamsil Stadium, the fans sit together on different sides of the stadium — for example, Doosan Bears fans on one side of the stadium, and the Nexen Heroes fans on the other side. Each team/side has its own group of dancers and mascots that stand on podiums and lead cheers and songs. They’re catchy, easy to follow, and they have a song/cheer for every player, every play, every moment of the game. I’ve never been part of such an energetic audience. It was like being at a rock concert. I also think one reason the games can maintain this level of energy is because the number of fans for both home and rival teams tend to be pretty balanced.
2. Cheers don’t stop. TH tells me that in American games, fans are usually silent during the pitch. Not here. We’ve got songs to sing and thunder sticks to hit. We even have little cheers that taunt the rival player at bat to strike out.
3. There are no (visible) luxury boxes. I’m not sure if this adds to the boisterous energy, but TH thinks it helps everyone share the experience more equally. We heard that stadiums in Korea do have luxury boxes, but they’re maybe more subtle than those in the U.S. I don’t know. Some stadiums also have BBQ sections, where people can grill their own kalbi and pork belly while watching the game. Only Korean people would think of creating something that awesome.
4. Speaking of food… Beers and food at the Korean games are super cheap! TH paid less than $2 USD for his beer, and he says that in the US, you’d have to pay about $8. We’re also allowed to bring in our own food. People bring in bags and boxes of fried chicken, pizza, kimbap, etc., and eat them during the game, and a lot of it is sold right outside the stadium in convenient picnic-style packages.
5. There are a lot of distractions. There’s the weird guy wearing the “Scream” ghostface mask that drives out with a T-shirt cannon. We also have a beer-drinking competition sponsored by Cass beer, Bulls One-Shot Dance competition, prize giveaways, kiss cam, etc., etc. Even if you don’t like baseball, there are a lot of other things to watch and do.
5. Seventh Inning Stretch: I just learned that “Seventh Inning Stretch” in U.S. and Canada are for the audience members to get out of their seats and stretch out. Well, in Korea, we have something similar, except it’s the players that come out on the green after the sixth inning and stretch their legs. It’s so cute!
6. There are a lot more women at the games. TH tells me that at games in the U.S., you usually see women with their significant others, but not very many attend by themselves. Here, you see far more groups of young women coming to the games on their own. I think this all goes back to the fact that you really don’t have to be a baseball connoisseur to have a blast. Like me: If I can have fun at a Korean baseball game, ANYONE can have fun at a Korean baseball game. Trust.