And so to Opening Day.
The simple fact is that the season is not a metaphor for the calendar. To a considerable degree, the season is the calendar - well, eight months of it anyway, with November through February as a monolithic blob designated the "Offseason", its only definable characteristic being the presence of Christmas and the lack of baseball. The season has rhythms and patterns that affect not only the players, but the fans, and each phase is recognizable, from Opening Day to the All-Star Break to the dog days of August to October. The offseason, though, is like "here be dragons" on a medieval map: hazy, unimaginable, and terrifying.
In Canada, that distinction is heightened by the brutal beating we take all winter long. There is always hockey, but hockey is a momentary diversion only, something done or watched for three hours once or twice a week. Baseball, for many of us, is a whole mode of being.
Our time is returning. All winter long, we have subjected ourselves to Will & Grace, to Trading Spaces reruns, even the Westminster Dog Show, just to build up the goodwill that lets you hold on to the remote when it's 9-4 in the sixth but you just know a comeback is in the offing. All winter long, we have smiled and nodded as friends, family, and co-workers have prattled on about how Tom Fitzgerald should be playing on the Leafs' checking line, or the merits of the 350 versus the 400 horsepower V8, or God forbid about the newest club fashions. Now we get to make everyone's eyes glaze over, with our analysis of the squeeze play in the seventh last night. All winter long, we've sustained ourselves with trade rumours and hot stove reminisces; now we get a game every night, or two, or more - an embarrassment of riches.
Think of what awaits us. Saturday afternoons against the Yankees. Trying to calculate batting averages in your head. Hot dogs (who eats hot dogs in the winter?). Boxscores (o lovely boxscores!). Arguments during rain delays. Tom and Jerry. Seeing "the Jays were trailing Anaheim 4-2 at press time" and knowing they pulled it out. Idly wondering whether Ichiro can hit .400 (or Nomar, or Barry, or Helton). Playing catch. Maybe even meaningful games in August and September.
Try not to think about the accidental sunburns, the inevitable losing streaks, "OK Blue Jays", or the neverending beer commercials. Or the ticket prices.
Did I mention the boxscores? I love boxscores. The long strings of 2s and 3s and 4s in Rockies boxscores. Trying to figure out who "JeGutrz" is. Seeing a favourite pitcher with "9 2 0 0 1 10" next to his name. The humour of seeing "3B - McGriff (1)", imagining him lumbering around second, and looking to see who was the rightfielder who let him do that. It's coming back, it's here.
We spend all winter walking home from work in the dark, waking up in the dark, trying to get there underground, bundling up in scarves and touques, shovelling snow. We spend all winter waiting for the sun; and in waiting for the sun, we're waiting for the season. It's an infallible rule; if it's warm out, there's a ballgame going on somewhere, and more than ice cream, more than the beach or the golf course, it is bound up with summertime - a time for kids, families, parties, vacations, and ballgames.
We need this, we put up with a lot of crap for this, and we should enjoy this. Have a great season, everyone.