Baseball Finals from the Outskirts

Daisy Valera

Industriales fans celebrate a Villa Clara funeral.

I don’t like baseball, and though the province where I was born has one of the best teams in the country, I flatly refuse to participate in the collective emotion.

In my school there are people from throughout the entire country, most of whom were following the Cuban Baseball Playoffs second by second.

As for me, I had no choice but to follow the game since I got the play-by-play from the shouting of my roommates in the dorm.  The ones who yell the most are the people rooting for Santiago, Industriales (the team from the capital) and Villa Clara.

It amazes me how they argue with such passion. It’s to the point that it seems as if they were the ones going out onto the field.  It’s like they’re obsessed with proving one team is better than another one, and that their team is going to win the title.

There are millions of other comments made, almost indistinguishable, because there’s never dialogue between fanatics of our national sport.

By pure chance, this year I didn’t have to be in my dorm on the day of the final game of the championship series.  The teams contending were Industriales and Villa Clara.

I was in a very different place, a neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital called Reparto Electrico.  Despite my indifference toward baseball, I ended up sitting in front of the television at a friend’s house there.

You’ll hardly ever see the phenomenon of Daisy watching a baseball game.  But if I’m in that strange situation, and one of the teams playing is Industriales representing the capital, I’m going to cheer for the opposing team with pleasure.

It’s simply because I’m from another province, and all of us who are not from Havana hate the interest and attention that the press and everyone else pay to the Industriales Lions team.

But more important than the rivalry between those we watched on TV was a discussion we had about how alienating our national sport is becoming.  As the games become more emotional, people forget about their daily shortages and problems.

People in Havana go out and buy blue tee-shirts representing their team while people from Villa Clara look for orange ones.

Along the streets they’re beginning to put up signs reading “Industriales: Champions,” and others like that.

On any street corner you can find shredded oranges hanging from poles or sketches of lions (the mascots of the capital’s team).

Meanwhile car owners are putting team name-plates and signs on their automobiles.

There’s a sort of paralyzation – people stop perceiving reality when the finals begin.

The entire community of Reparto Electrico hollered in unison every time their team made a hit, just as there was dead silence when the opposing squad batted one across the field.  Yet finally the victory went to Industriales, and I could see something I hadn’t seen in years.

Many residents went outside to share in the victory of their team and to sing.  All of that touched off happiness in me, but sadness at the same time.

The happiness came from seeing so many people united as one; while a bittersweet taste of sadness was left when I recognized the reason for all this: the home team having defeated a rival in a simple game.

They weren’t celebrating something they had achieved collectively as residents, as a neighborhood.  Unfortunately, activities like planting trees or solving street-lighting problems or creating common recreation areas are not things the residents of Reparto Electrico aim to achieve or wish to celebrate.

It seems to me that appreciating sports and participating in them should be a right enjoyed by everyone; but that benefit should never interfere with our doing what is indispensable for our country.

Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.