My parents emigrated to the United States from South Korea in the early 1970's, a year before my older sister was born. I can't imagine what it was like to move to a different country. My parents eventually made their way to Atlanta, GA, where I was born. My earliest memories involve going to church, school (preschool, then kindergarten; Korean school for language and culture), and doing various sports and activities (tee-ball, peewee soccer, swimming, ice skating). My parents had fully embraced the American culture and my sister and I were very much immersed in it, also. However, the one thing I will always remember as representative of their new-found love for this country starts with baseball, America's favorite pastime.
They took to heart that baseball was THE sport which every true American loved and followed. To that end, they became great Atlanta Braves fans. In the 70s. They were pretty bad in the 2nd half of that decade and, while they got pretty good in the early 80s (Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, Phil Niekro, Steve Bedrosian, Gene Garber, Chris Chambliss, Glen Hubbard, and others), it really wasn't until the 90s that they were great. Anyway, my parents, they took baseball and America very seriously. I still remember coming out of church and getting in the car for the drive home, just in time to catch the game on WSB radio, with guys like Skip Caray, Ernie Johnson and Pete Van Wieren making the calls. I never understood at the time why my father would get so upset when the broadcast was late for, cut off, or sometimes didn't even air the national anthem before the game, but like I said - he loved his adopted country. Of course, as a kid at the time, I only wanted to hear the part of the Star-Spangled Banner I thought was about the Braves - "And the home of the BRAVES!"
Later on, I could see how profoundly sports - and baseball, in particular - formed a bond between me and my mother. She was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, so I transferred my job and moved home as the disease progressed to help take care of her. I still remember sitting there one Saturday afternoon with her as she was lying down to rest, listening to the Braves pre-game show. One of the trivia questions was to name all 30 baseball parks. I was duly impressed that my mother knew at least as many parks as I did, including the new corporate names of some of the parks (I had forgotten what the new names for Jack Murphy and Candlestick were). We had a good laugh, and that day sticks out in my memory of many great and not-so-great days. We did name them all, by the way!
It's hard to imagine that immigrants from Korea could be so captivated by a mere sport and that it could mean so much to them. But it has played a pivotal role in our integration into this society and, more importantly, served as the foundation for many priceless memories.