Foreign Policy Blogs

Venezuela’s Other Passion: Baseball

Baseball is a national obsession in Venezuela, drawing as much or even more attention than the country’s beauty industry.

The season began a little over a week ago. Whereas other South American countries focus on “fútbol” (a.k.a. soccer), Venezuelans are diehard baseball fans. What is the atmosphere in the stadiums? Just imagine the most raucous sports event that you have gone to in the US – well, aside from WWF – and multiply that intensity a few times over.

The league has eight teams and competes from October to January, the off-season for Major League Baseball. The majority of players are Venezuelans the level of Double A, though some pros like Francisco Rodriguez return for a little off-season tune up. Each team also has some US players who get a chance to be rock-stars for 63 or more games, receiving a level of attention perhaps unattainable again unless they reach the majors.

Umpires who are on their way up the US minor league ranks can strengthen their resume by spending a winter in Venezuela. The thought is that if they survive the in-your-face attitude of many players as well as the taunts and beers hurled by the fans, they are more likely to succeed in umping at the Major League level.

My difficulty upon first arriving in Caracas was trying to figure out which team to support. The most popular club – and that which has won the most titles – is the Leones (Lions) of Caracas. They seemed too much like the Yankees, however, and so I had to settle on a team known for the passion of its supporters, but which had a history of heartbreaking losses – the Tiburones (Sharks) of La Guira. The Boston Red Sox fan in me (well, the one that existed up until the 2004 World Series victory) felt an instant bond.

Attending one game in which the Tiburones were losing, there was a blackout during the 8th inning (see the previous blog posting related to power outages in Venezuela). This would have been the cue for fans in the US to slip out and head home – in Caracas, however, almost all stayed and chanted to the rhythm of the drums, while drinking more beer. A last inning rally fell short, but I still returned home with the fan’s songs ringing in my ears.

 

Author

David D. Sussman

David D. Sussman is currently a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), in Boston, Massachusetts. Serving as a fellow at the Feinstein International Center, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the lives of Colombian refugees and economic migrants in Caracas, Venezuela. David has worked on a variety of migrant issues that include the health of displaced persons, domestic resettlement of refugees, and structured labor-migration programs. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School, where he studied the integration of Somali and Salvadoran immigrants. David has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and is fluent in Spanish. He has lived in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, and also traveled throughout Latin America. In his free time David enjoys reading up on international news, playing soccer, cooking arepas, and dancing salsa casino. Areas of Focus: Latin America; Migration; Venezuela.

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