Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Opening Day

Photos from the Boston Herald

Is there another day during the battered year that offers more hope than the Opening Day of baseball season? For one day, we have the unadulterated hope that this is the year for our team, that the players will answer emphatically all of the questions surrounding the club, and that each and every one of the ifs about the team are groundless fears that will be blown out of our minds by the breeze from that first pitch thumping into the catcher's mitt.

Sure, disappointment and disillusion will slowly set in one team at a time until only a few are left to play meaningful games in the September stretch run. In baseball, August is the cruelest month, the callous dog days that relentlessly expose every weakness until only the hardiest and luckiest teams remain. September is time when the best play through injury and pain, when a pitch that misses by inches can determine a season, when a brief losing streak into a test of mettle.

Writers have written about baseball as a metaphor for life to the point that it has become a cliche. They usually stress individual heroics and shortcomings and the supposed nobility of defeat, which I think misses the point. Of all sports, baseball is the most like life because they do it every day. Players report to work sick and hurt and perform anyway. A hard day at the office -- like the Seattle Mariners' brutal defeat yesterday -- gives way within hours to the next day at work. As in life, it's not so much the bad days -- because they always come -- that matter as much as how the team responds to them. A great day at the office -- like the one Josh Beckett had yesterday -- matters only if the team and player can capitalize on it. Otherwise, it will be as meaningless and forgotten as a team that finished sixth in 1955.

Among those teams playing meaningful ball in September, only a handful will go on to play in the post-season. Some of those will rapidly expose the weaknesses of others, and the survivors will in turn be exposed until one remains. That club and its fans will have a few months to relax and enjoy ultimate success while the other teams scheme to overtake the champions. Around mid-February, it all starts up again with magic words "pitchers and catchers report" to spring training. Once again, we begin the process of hope and loss, relearning the most useful lesson the sport has to offer: Don't get too excited by victory because defeat is as certain as the sunrise, and don't get beaten down by defeat because there will be another game...

Ted Kennedy threw out the first pitch yesterday at Fenway Pahk:

Schadenfreude Dept: Opposing groups of College Republicans at the University of California-San Diego have been brawling with each other for unclear reasons. Whether its about ideology or ego, the dispute had gotten nasty. For some good clean fun, read this post and the comments that follow. There's more here. The post that introduces the subject is tedious and convoluted, so read enough to get the idea then skip ahead to the comments...

Kids and grass: "An attractive force that cannot be overcome..."

Bob Dylan connects the dots between Barack Obama and Ulysses S. Grant.You can listen to a cut from his upcoming new album here...

You need men to fight wars, to be cops. You need men to carry hysterical women out of burning buildings -- just a joke, folks! It's more stereotypical humor. Just me being me, trying to get in a few laughs here. I think, well, men who don't -- who just -- who are not obsessed with discussing their feelings, they're always going to get grief for it.


John Hayes said...

The long ebb & flow of the major league season is one of the many things that makes baseball so appealing-- not the frenetic week to week frenzy of football, which I just can't connect with so much anymore. You do a nice job of sumarizing that ebb & flow.

On a marginally related note, have been really enjoying Ring Lardner's "You Know Me Al" stories-- probably will write about them at some time. Fantastic writing-- a lot more than "just" baseball.

Anonymous said...

Baseball is something of an abstraction to me living in Buffalo. We have a minor team but it's not the same. I read some of that College Republican sniping and it's mind-erasing to think that these are kids who should be bonging and banging and taking sudafed to write that damned 10 page paper on Shelley's The Cloud. Instead they are huffing and puffing around in hospitality rooms with their noses up politcian's asses. Damn I am glad I flamed out of school and did concrete for 2 years before going back !!!

K. said...

John, Ring Lardner is great. Dig up Fitzgerald's eulogy of him -- they were close friends.

Rasta, they don't exactly come across like a laff riot, do they?