OF OPENING WEEKS
A childish joy is resurrected that first week or two of April
There is something deeply satisfying about seeing disappearing snow banks and putting away your thickest, warmest winter coat for the next seven months. The warmer air makes you want to breathe a little deeper as you feel the sun?s warmth in a way you had not felt for far too long. It?s time to cleanse your palate. If you spent the harsh winter in despair at the current state of humanity or were worn out and beaten up by the nasty cold, it?s time to shake it all off as a new time is upon us. This is a time which brings with it good vibes, it is a time for new beginnings, which, not coincidentally, coincides with the start of the new baseball season. This is a time when everything old is new again, when our winter doldrums are about to be exorcised and not just thanks to the improving weather; baseball has a lot to do with that.
Fans? love of the fresh air drives them out to the ballpark, even if that ballpark is a soulless, hermetically sealed concrete box, like our barn here in Toronto. That notwithstanding, baseball is back and there is plenty to look forward to and cheer. The sights and sounds often taken for granted the baseball fan now readily awaits. The buildup to the first game, the buntings artfully draped from the decks, the baserunner dusting the dirt off his pants, the pop of the glove, the fire in the eyes of a rookie player who isn?t yet beaten down by years of losing, the pureness of the crack of the bat, the silent, pensive anticipation that transpires after the last play and before the next pitch is even thrown, the crowd?s thunderous roar as a low liner clears the top of the outfield wall, the batter forced into an impromptu dance after taking a heater high and tight, the subtle ping of the needle as it cracks the player?s gluteal flesh, etc., etc. Ahh, these are the things that baseball offers its faithful and, man alive, are they ever priceless. I?m so filled to the gills with giddiness on the eve of Opening Day that when I do my usual search on Google ? a company at the forefront of refining advanced data mining algorithms ? for ?hot housewife sex?, I am met with the following response from the cutting edge search engine: ?Did you mean baseball ?? Yup, they got me figured all out.
Only half the ballparks get to experience the real Opening Day as all kinds of firsts start taking place right out of the chute. That said, the others still get their chance to revel in the excitement and pageantry of baseball?s opening week during their team?s home opener and thank goodness for that because it?s sublime pleasure to be part of the amped-up atmosphere. It gets people thinking that this season will be so much better than the last 21, if you?re a Blue Jays fan. Because why not ?
Heading into the 2015 season, my radar is definitely picking up the deluge of excitement sweeping through Toronto. Toronto sports fans ? I count myself among them ? typically have little to get excited about at the tail end of a regular season; so they have vast reserves of energy stored away and ready to unleash for the start of a new season. We have endured enough gallows humour over the years and been subjected to more than our fair share of ridicule by placing our hopes in teams that habitually underdeliver year after year. It is especially those Toronto sports fans under 40, give or take, who know winning like Charlie Sheen knows sobriety. The typical Toronto sports fan, who has in many ways lived a very unfulfilled life, can often be found screaming in their sleep. The Maple Leafs leave Toronto sports fans wanting when the much-anticipated playoff season kicks off at this time of year, and media types like myself get to cover about as much playoff hockey in Toronto as there is downhill skiing in Brazil.
But all that aside, hope will ? against all odds ? spring eternal, especially every spring, even if that hope happens not to be so well rooted in reality. We accept that eventually a bitter reality will set in, but the hope ? whether rational or not ? is that our team will be exempt from that cruel reality. So it?s not much of a stretch to posit that millions of fans are temporarily infused with the child-like naivete when facing the prospects of their team?s chances before inevitably getting a glass of cold water in the face. But false hope is only a part of the story. To be sure, things have reached critical mass for an eager Toronto fan base that is beyond merely accepting losing and approaching a suicidal state over how brutally their various teams have toyed with their emotions and, without fail, giving them unhappy endings. When it comes to the Blue Jays, fans are happy to forgive and forget at least during opening week and momentarily jump back into the arms of their abusers as they fill the Rogers Centre?s every blue seat.
Of course a new season brings with it new rules. I?m told there will be a pitching clock now. Another change involves tighter security measures. I?m not sure what prompted this, but maybe someone from the MLB front offices saw the new Paul Blart movie. But none of this should detract from the fact that a new baseball season is in full flight and, as fans, we can lose ourselves in the warm comfort of hearing that guaranteed feel-good axiom ?Play Ball !? everyday from now until it?s pumpkin-carving time again.