Alienated by Baseball

Irina Echarry

The finals of the Cuban Baseball Championship Series just took place. When this event occurs it’s normal to feel that the pace of life has quickened. Industriales and Villa Clara were the two competitors: the Industriales representing the west of the country and Villa Clara the east.

In my case I live in the city of Havana, in western Cuba. Back in other times I only heard screams of joy when the team from this half of the island makes a run or wins a game. But it’s no longer like this.

Behind the closed door of my room trying to write, read, talk on the phone or simply trying to regain a bit of calm, I shudder during every minute of the best-of seven game playoffs.

Why? Because the building situated in front of me is occupied mostly by people born in the eastern provinces who have come to Havana in search of greater opportunity. When the frantic screams or exclamations come from that building, I know Villa Clara has scored.

However, when the wild uproar (in addition to screams of euphoria, clapping and the annoying clanging of pots and pans) comes through the door of my room, the Industriales have scored. I know that because down the hall live a group of fanatics for that team.

For me it’s amazing to see people so involved in a simple game. You feel as if they have something of value at stake (be it even vanity or pride) every time the players come out onto the field.

I find something uncomfortable witnessing their energetic phrases or their swipes in the air only to describe some play or reveal their dissatisfaction with the opposing team winning. I believe that —beyond an interest in a particular sport or the preference for one team or another— this allows them to be swept down the narrow hole of alienation.

When the series “is getting good” everything is forgotten. You leave behind any concern about the lack of root vegetables in the farmer’s market, shortages of medicine, the perpetual misfortune of public transportation, intense heat, having to get into endless lines to buy any product. Everything is paralyzed. The euphoria overflows into the parks; improvised conga lines with people dressed in blue signals the victory of Industriales.

As this human current drags us toward the stadium, we’re reminded that there remains only one more game to determine the final champion. So what does it matter if vegetables are so expensive, if the fruit is ripened with chemicals or if your wages can’t stretch to get your shoes fixed?

Sports is a right of the people and it’s necessary to enjoy it. The admission to the Latin American Stadium is only a peso or two; the public is diverse and no one notices the clothes the person sitting next them is wearing.

Suffering that is out of sight is out of mind. Alienation through baseball is a subtle and effective method for forgetting hardships (your own and those of others). In any case, it’s better than alcohol. Or is it?