Friday, September 19, 2008
There are so few shared cultural experiences.
It's a fact that becomes more apparent every time I try to relate to anyone about culture, even so-called popular culture. We all exist in different bubbles of taste — different television channels to surf, different Web sites saved as favorites. I don't even know about many of the same bands my musically-inclined friends like. I scour the internet daily to find new artists, listen to new albums, and it's still hard to connect with many people on anything, even music. Pitchfork.com reviews new albums everyday, most of which never appear in the mainstream media outlets — Entertainment Weekly — etc. Even more discouraging, the same albums often don't even appear in other indie publications.
But when I go to a Cub's game and walk around Wrigleyville, everyone has the same purpose — watch the Cubbies win, drink beer, eat hot dogs, yell at the umpires, high-five. That social animal instinct comes out. I should be running in a pack! I should be participating in group think! It's my nature, man ...
Arriving on the North side, you feel like you belong to something, even if it is only for a few hours, and you aren't even really from Chicago. But when the all the cheering and parading is over, you can't help but feel like a sucker. The cliched complaints come out in full force. Did I really just spend more than a hundred dollars on a ticket and concessions? Did I really just use $50 worth of gas to watch grown men run around in a circle and hit a ball with a bat? I just spent a half a week's worth of pay. The owners and players and managers continue to earn millions, but are still hungry for more. Is this the cost today to have a simple, shared cultural experience?
Why is it appealing to shell out that kind of cash for something so superficial? My meager salary is a year's work worth less than Alex Rodriques' payout for one game. It all comes back to that shared cultural experience. For those few hours, I was a part of something bigger, there were 40,000 fans united momentarily for one silly purpose. The same thing that can make a concert more than just music.
Maybe it's because there are some things ingrained into my psyche as a little boy that I will always enjoy, even when I know they are silly and ultimately unsubstantial — baseball, Star Wars and hot chocolate. So even while my attitude rises and falls like an uppercut hitter's swing, I can't help but enjoy going to baseball games. It's a feeling a colder, more rational person would level.