Portland Beavers: A Quasi-Scientific Study

Tim Josephs' recent article detailing the rain delay rituals of the Beavers got me thinking: So much of the professional baseball experience takes place outside the foul lines. It's downtime on planes and buses, poker and crosswords in clubhouses, long distance phone calls from faraway hotels and cold nights on bullpen benches.

Early Season Chills by Tim Joseph

It's ice packs, idle chat and bad jokes. And, more importantly, it's all lived out, in more or less the same way, by the same bunch of guys, day in and day out. Throw a season of stressful, knock-down, drag-out ballgames into the mix, and an undoubtedly unique culture is going to arise.

In short, I wanted to learn more about that culture.

As luck would have it, in addition to the support staff, coaches and trainers who keep the team up and running, the Beavers come equipped with a resident social scientist. Not only does centerfielder Will Venable have a degree in anthropology (from Princeton, no less), he's also batting an impressive .325 on the season. So, when it comes to questions of baseball and culture, he's the go-to guy.

Looking specifically at three of the major facets of any anthropological study, (and, I mean, come on; if we're going to do this, let's do it right), I asked Venable for his take on Beavers' culture.

Food

Based on its diet, what would you say about the Beavers as a culture?

"Unhealthy.…Like any clubhouse…Burgers and hot dogs. We got our little fruit and vegetable platter, but you've got to get creative with your peanut butter and jelly."

(Case in point: There was a rapidly cooling buffet featuring sloppy joes no farther than six feet from Venable as he answered this question.)

Artifacts

Is it a fairly messy culture? Are there a lot of "artifacts" to find after the game?

"Yeah, you better make sure you know where you put your stuff…"

Money

Who's picking up the tab when you're out to eat?

"It depends on who you go with. Some guys are quick to pick up the tab and some aren't." (In keeping with his status as a person of high standing within the Beavers culture, Venable declined to comment when asked to name names.) Any betting? Gambling?

"I wouldn't say ‘gambling.' There's card playing and that kind of stuff, and…I guess we'll call them gentlemen's bets—random wagers here and there."

Language

How about style of language?

"Talking about language, specifically with baseball, it's interesting: Latin guys, American guys, the few words that we can say to them and they can say to us. That whole dynamic is pretty funny. I think some of them might be inappropriate…"

Finally, the big question

If the Beavers were left to fend for themselves as a culture, would they survive?

"Yeah. We've definitely got some leaders and some soldiers…some people willing to do some dirty work. I think we'd get along."

You could populate the planet…

"Yeah, we could come up with some kind of structure."

Of course, merely surviving and winning are two very different things. Luckily, we'll all have an opportunity to observe firsthand how that final stage of the experiment plays out.

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