Sunday, March 30, 2008

OK, Let's Get Going (just another way to say "Play Ball.")

All day, it began to feel right. Although somewhat chilly, there was warmth in the air. Sean and I ceremonially hung the Yankees flag up, then Sean recited the Pledge of Allegiance (with a few minor changes provided by me).

And yet, it was a normal spring day. We tried to drain water off the top of the pool and washed the cars. Laundry was done, the garage was cleaned, and a snake was spotted outside (pathetic little thing). Eventually, dinner was served (perhaps it should have been hot dogs, but pulled pork and mac and cheese will do). Then we watched Aladdin - an oldie, but a goodie (yeah, it's an oldie now - let's call it a classic).

Finally, I walked to the office, popped on the TV, and there it was. The Braves and Nationals were getting ready to open the Nats' new park in Washington. The National Anthem would be sung, the President would throw out the first pitch (say what you want about his politics, but the guy can throw), and we got underway.

There are plenty of things to nitpick at, sure. I still hate opening on Sunday night because ESPN mandates it. That's bull, but that's sports in this era - being dictated to by TV. I can't stand that ESPN is so busy listening to themselves talk that you don't get to see the lineup intros and the other pomp and circumstance. Again, that's TV. I'm shocked they showed the singing of the National Anthem. And of course, this is not my team that's playing. So for me, the REAL opener is tomorrow - 1:05 - in the still grandest cathedral of them all.

Baseball really should do it the way they used to - no other pitch could be thrown until the Reds held their annual parade, and started their game in Cincinnati. While baseball still does so many things right, it seems so destined to force feed countless things (Robinson, Jackie) yet forgets some of the little things that people love (single admission doubleheaders is a good example).

For tonight and, by extension, tomorrow, none of this matters. We don't care about Roger Clemens or even Andy Pettitte (the HGH user, not the pitcher). Jose Canseco is a sad, pathetic schlock-meister. He's not worthy of this conversation.

No, tonight we think about taking the extra base. About testing the right fielder's arm. We think about the new guys (LaTroy Hawkins will wear 21 in New York, in honor of Roberto Clemente. Nice thought, but there's a guy who wore 21 in The Bronx that's held in pretty high honor. Don't stink, LaTroy. That's all I'm saying.). We'll oil up the glove (maybe you won't, but I did). We'll turn on the radio (or Internet) and listen to the Voices. Especially the Great Scully. Always. So long as he's still doing it, there's nobody better, and I dare you to debate me on it.

The excitement builds to see my friends in Section 5 - Mick, Kennedy, Lizzie, Eddie, Steve, John (or some combo therein), and my cousin Kris.

Oh, we'll debate. Yankees? Mets? Red Sox? I don't want to debate about A-Rod doing steroids. I want to debate A-Rod versus Manny, or Papi, or even the Captain.

In fact, we're getting closer to debating A-Rod versus history. Is he better than them all?

The answer is still no. For now.

You can tell me I'm nuts if you wish; that baseball opened on Tuesday in Japan. I'll say poppycock (because it sounds more argumentative than Cracker Jack). That was a marketing ploy and exhibition that counts in the standings. It didn't give me the emotional charge that tonight has, or tomorrow will.

I wondered if it would happen. Why wasn't I getting that charge about baseball? I realized that I just needed tonight. No other sport does Opening Day like this. It just doesn't mean that much.

Indeed it hit me. The Final Four no longer seemed important. Wrestlemania? Irrelevant to me, but brilliantly covered by Sean Kilkelly. Fathers and sons tossed a ball around, and talked about the game. Our game. The American Game. Say what you want. I get it - football is king, the National Passion. But there's no doubt that baseball is still, and forever, the National Pastime.

Winter is over. The year can now begin. Baseball is back.

Play ball.

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