Saturday, March 29, 2008

hope springs eternal??/

Monday the Indians will begin their quest for their first World Championship in sixty years. I remember just a decade ago feeling that this year, this golden anniversary of Boudreau's win over the Spahn and Sane Braves would surely be the year. Hell, we were three outs away the year before, and we've only gotten better. But the 116 win Yankees had other plans that year.
I remember four oh so long months ago last year when we had to endure three straight losses as our championship hopes fell to the same pit where we found Lebron in June, and DA in December, and we were reminded again exactly why Bill Livingston, Paul Hoynes and the rest of the crabby and cantankerous sports writers are even employed.
But again, the pain that was four months ago is being overtaken by this anticipation. To call it "giddy" or "hopeful" would seem so normal, so cliché, and at times, insufficient. This discussion of eternal spring and fervent optimism has been noted by everyone from Whitman to Gammons. The combination of opening day, and the dawn of spring is been brought up over and over again, but every March, every year around this time, no matter how meaningless or painful the previous October was, always provides the same skip to our collective heart beat.
The season will start Monday in Cleveland (weather permitting) and even if Grady leads off the game with a triple, it won't be as good as last year's start. Even if we put up six runs in the first inning of the year, it won't match last year's first. And even if April is spent atop the AL Central standings, it won't have anything on last year. But somehow, despite the almost impossible expectations established by last year's club, despite the six month, 162 game gauntlet that lies ahead, our optimism will have to defeat our cynicism, our hope will have to counter our bitterness, and hopefully (again, weather permitting) we can prepare ourselves for another summer long adventure back into the somewhat unfamiliar arms of baseball's greatest gift: October.
As the eve of the longest, and often cruelest stretch of sports approaches, we are reminded what it is like to embrace the palpable feeling of freedom and pleasure that baseball can provide. The season is a narrative, beginning in the hot, steamy, multi-field complexes of Florida and Arizona, the season's start is a flighty and loose month of what seems like a never ending circle of stretching and calisthenics. The season is a long and grueling trek through the heart of half of the year that includes "the spring", "the dog days", "the stretch" and "the pennant chase", all culminating in the cold, packed houses of the league's best teams. The season starts when spring is reminding us just how much fun the summer will be and ends amidst the chilly reminder of how important winning can be. The fall reminds us all how lucky we can be to have to endure three series of Tim McCarver, biased media and Frank TV ads. The fall reminds us that as long as there are leaves on the trees, as long as there are enough snowplows, snow blowers and snow shoes in the city, it's still baseball season.
And most of all the fall reminds us of just how perfect the spring can be. When we can sit outside, watch a ballgame, and pray that in six months, we can still be doing just that.