What a Chinese Olympic Rain Delay Feels Like
There simply aren't many better ways to spend an afternoon than beneath the stadium canopy at an Olympic baseball game with 200 people you've never met, watching sheets of rain fall from the sky while listening to a soft jazz version of "Sweet Child of Mine."
And while rain is rain and a delay is a delay, here are several ways an Olympic afternoon rain delay might differ from an MLB afternoon rain delay.
* Some fans will be happy. I asked the first American fans I saw during that Holland-USA delay how they were passing the time; "I've been drinking beer," Eric Cobb, a 36-year old from San Diego told me. "It's a wonderful place to sit: it's pleasant, nice, there's Chinese music to listen to...."
Eric is the rare fan at a sporting event who was rooting for rain. He's a Padres season ticket holder who, in many hundreds of trips to the ballpark, had never before seen a rain delay. This was also his first time seeing a tarp in action. It's the simple joys.
* Money won't be made. Some rain-delay veterans attempted to visit the concessions, possibly to buy some Yili Yogurt or President Snack Noodles, only to find them closed; "Americans would have never given up on that money," said Jillian Weathers, sister of pitcher Casey.
Others reveled in the free ponchos that volunteers were handing out to the diehards who stuck it out; "in America they would be forming a line waiting for the $10 ponchos," said Jay Weathers, father of pitcher Casey.
* The music at the baseball venue was as traditional as it comes for a ball game: Hava Nagila, the Mexican Hat Dance, the Charge bugle call. But during the rain delay, you won't hear ballgame music; instead, think '70s disco remakes and laconic Chinese ballads. "They did play a cool version of 'Hey Jude' that I did enjoy, but other than that, it's been opera, or whatever this is," joked Dara Altman, fiancee of left fielder Matt LaPorta.
* The fans will grow paranoid. Two women from the Maryland suburbs of Washington--who had recently met some of the U.S. baseball players--headed outside the stadium to buy beer and wound up standing in a pool of suspicious water. They planned to trash their shoes as soon as they got back to their hotel.
"We hope it wasn't fecal matter," one of them said.
Everyone will be related to one of the players in some way.
"Otherwise there's no way we'd be here," said Debbie Donald, mother of Jason.
* The stories will be particularly gross. Cobb explained how he had caught a foul ball earlier in the game while posing for photos with Chinese kids. Then he started talking about his lifetime gastronomical achievements: eating pigeon brain and deer ligament and snake venom.
A few rows up, 19-year old Rachael Steinke explained how she had passed the time in the delay slapping her younger brother's Michael's swollen mosquito bites until they leaked pus. Her mother protested that it wasn't really pus.
"That is pus," Rachael maintained. "I'm sorry, there's no other word for it."
* When the game finally does resume, Olympic volunteers will wipe off your seat with a damp rag. Then they'll squeeze out the moisture onto the ground. Then they'll dry some more seats.
* The scoreboard will lie to you for two hours. "Beijing 2008 apologies for the delay competition will commence shortly," read the electronic message on the scoreboard. "Shortly," in the case of this second and final rain delay, meaning "never."
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