According to Jules Tygiel’s 2000 book “Past Time,” Americans have been referring to baseball as our national pastime since 1856. That’s five years before the Confederates seceded, more than a decade before the Cincinnati Red Stockings went pro and almost half a century before Babe Ruth was born. It was a long time ago — in “Sandlot” parlance, “FOR-E-VER.”
Frankly, times have changed. Baseball is an inextricable part of Americana, but it’s certainly not the epicenter of American sporting life; the NFL has surpassed it in TV ratings, average attendance and fantasy participation. Nor is baseball the sport your kids are most likely to take up (football for boys, basketball for girls). The sport doesn’t yet feel like a historical reenactment, but it’s as retro as pompadours or tube amps.
So of course the best baseball stadium in America, Huntington Park, has become a temple for everything else. Die-hard fans are accommodated, sure — the team is competitive, and the sightlines are exquisite — it’s just that you can have a blast at the ballpark without actually watching the game. Even in its own home, baseball is no longer the center of attention.
Thus, we need a new pastime. More accurately, a new pastime is already out there; we just need to recognize it. With the Clippers’ opening day looming Thursday, here are 10 stadium activities that could rightfully supplant baseball.
Eating junk food. No matter how many health food crazes come along, your average American craves fat, greasy, sweet and/or salty foodstuffs. And from barbecue to pizza to funnel cake fries(!), you can consume all kinds of heart-stoppingly delicious options at Clippers games.
Fair-weather fandom. Belatedly hitching our wagons to winners is a grand American tradition. The Clippers have been consistently good in a context that does not lend itself to consistency, what with all the best players getting shipped off to the big leagues. A team stocked with future Indians won back-to-back AAA national championships in 2010 and 2011, and while 2012’s team finished 14 games out, at least it led the league in batting average. So this decade has been a great time to pretend to be a Clippers fan.
Working on your tan. Better this way than in a coffin-like cancer chamber.
Celebrity worship. In this country, we love basking in the glow of famous people, even the faint glow of marginally famous people. Did you hear Dice-K is pitching on opening day?
Deals, deals, deals! Whether you wish to purchase hot dogs for 10 cents each on select Mondays or start a blood feud over catapulted T-shirts, Huntington Park is the place for you.
Inane competitions. Not sure where hot dog races rank on a spectrum that also includes FarmVille and “Man v. Food.” Note that we didn’t say “meaningless competitions” because technically doesn’t that include baseball, and all sports, and all of life?
Stealing music. Even before the dawn of Napster, when “home taping (was) killing music,” Americans have been about enjoying noise without paying for it. Once in a blue moon, Huntington Park affords the opportunity to bring this phenomenon to life. While watching Dawes open for Mumford & Sons in the LC Pavilion festival setting last summer, your intrepid Alive reporters noticed how easily fans in the club level at Huntington Park could observe the concert. The Clippers are away July 14 when Fun. and Tegan and Sara are playing that venue, but who knows what PromoWest will schedule against a Clippers-Mud Hens showdown?
Cutting out of work. Know what Americans value even more than hard work? Leaving work early. The first matinee ballgame of 2013 starts at 11:35 a.m. Wednesday.
Snapping a photo of your surroundings for Instagram followed by full immersion in your phone/obliviousness to said surroundings. Those emojis sure are fascinating.
Drinking. Honestly, this has been our true national pastime since the day they signed the Declaration. Next question.