"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Final Countdown!

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(beats Lucy yanking away the damn football)

Two more days. Just two more days until baseball begins again. You know, I have to admit, after the Sox won the whole damn thing and I let it sink in (as if that’s ever going to really happen), I wondered if I’d be that excited for the 2005 season. I sort of felt like we’d waited so damn long to be champions that I wanted time to enjoy it. It’s kind of a Catch-22, the teams that earn the right to play for the ring, play a longer season and therefore, have less actual time to BE the champions.

But as pitchers and catchers reported and position players showed up and reports about the status of Curt Schilling’s ankle and Bill Mueller’s knee started filtering their way up north, I realized that I was more excited than ever. Because last year was “next year,” we set out on April 3rd with a title to defend. And I can’t wait.

The thing is, there’s no substitute for good baseball. I’ve probably said the same thing about football at some point. I am equal parts football and baseball fan and I suffer from a kind of selective amnesia regarding my two babies. While in the midst of one season, I tend to forget about the other one, save for scanning the sports pages or hearing through the grapevine that Roman Phifer has been released (in Belichick I trust, in Belichick I trust). During football season and in the midst of the Pats’ latest Super Bowl run, I get all “Wha? Bill Mueller had knee surgery? Um, damn. What’s the point spread for the Colts/Pats game?” It doesn’t mean I love one sport more than the other. They’re like children, I love them both equally. But I love them for different reasons.

Beth, a fellow sport bigamist has a fantastic entry detailing her reasons why baseball is better than football and why, in the interest of fairness, football is better than baseball. Read it. She is much more eloquent than I’ll ever be. But, in the interest of, I guess, self-interest, I’ve dug up an old email I wrote a year ago responding to an ESPN.com column that claimed that football far surpasses baseball as the national pastime. Reading that now, with football seemingly getting smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror, I wonder how anyone can not appreciate baseball for the beautiful and exciting game it is.

Earlier today, I happened to ask a coworker who works in New York (Jets fan, still in mourning), if he was excited about the upcoming baseball season. His response: “Actually, I'm not a big baseball guy. I may end up going to a Mets game this year though, as I'm like 15 minutes from Shea on the subway. And, they might actually not suck this year.” I mean, I know that this particular coworker is a fanatical hockey fan and, as such, hates life right now, but, I mean, BASEBALL! Which I said. And which he replied to by saying, “Baseball has always been too slow for me.” But, um, but, there’s, but, BASEBALL!

I used to date someone – a basketball player so perhaps that explains things – who said, “If baseball were any slower, it’d be farming.” And so help me, I have tried but I cannot understand this mindset.

I’ve always been one of those people who can’t simply sit still and watch TV. I always need to have something else going on. Checking email, talking on the phone, cooking dinner, reading a book, knitting (shut up, making scarves kept me sane during the 2003 postseason), but I discovered last year that I could no longer do that when baseball was involved. It may be a mean-nothing game in May against the Devil Rays (I agree with Stephen King’s proposition in “Faithful” that until they show promise, they be referred to as the “hapless Devil Rays”) but after an inning or so, despite my best efforts at multitasking, I find myself sitting on the couch, beer in hand, and watching every pitch. To me, baseball is not boring. Baseball is the highest in high drama. Every pitch leads to something, whether it be a foul down the third base line, a ball way outside or a fat meatball headed for the Monster seats. But either way, each pitch changes the context of the next pitch. Each pitch matters. That’s why I watch them all.

I realize how obsessive this seems. And no one person who also has a job and gives off the outward appearance of being a reasonably well-functioning adult, can watch every inning of all 162 regular season games without going markedly insane. It’s true. And I do miss some from time to time. Not necessarily by choice but sometimes, life interferes with baseball. That said, I have been known to cross international borders to attend Red Sox games (screw you, Frank Castillo! Thanks for ruining my trip to Toronto), and I’m in the process of purchasing tickets to do it again this year.

I also know that Spring Training baseball, despite its promise and its palm trees, is not the same as regular season ball, no matter how long the starters play. But that’s okay. It’s a good way to warm up to the real thing. And while Mother Nature has dumped another foot of snow on us up here, (seriously, woman, E. Nuff.), our boys are taking BP and playing long toss in the Florida sun. And I can’t think of a better way to get primed to defend our title than by watching them run out grounders while cheering the return of the Rem-Dawg and Orsillo to NESN-tuned TV stations, the Nation over. Two more days.