This is the time of year where every major sports league has something exciting either taking place or about to. A kaleidoscope of starting times, match-ups, rival networks, and television stations bursting into sports bloom.
For me, it just doesn’t get any better.
We’re hours away from discovering who will be this year’s men’s and women’s college basketball champions. It’s exciting even though I have no dog in the games. Actually, I might be the dog myself, salivating at the excitement of a final contest. Like my cousin Hank says, we’d watch any final of any championship including sports we know nothing about. Badminton, anyone?
Football’s free agency has slowed to a crawl, but when it was hot there was a great deal of player movement, something that fans love. Trades in any sport often remind me of slavery—only these slaves usually end up with millions in their pockets after the musical chair game is finished. The team owners always end up with more, but hey, that’s capitalism for you.
And here come the N.B.A. playoffs where I do have a dog. A real underdog. The Boston Celtics are limping (literally our two stars, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on ankle injuries) into the final regular season games hoping to cling to the seventh spot so they don’t see the Miami Heat in the first round. Although the Celts have been amazingly resilient throughout the course of this injury-plagued season, losing eight out of your last eleven games with nine to go doesn’t bode well for playoff momentum. (But the games won’t be decided before there are the jump balls so the Celts still have a chance for another banner. Just don’t bet the rent. I sure ain’t.
I’m not much of a hockey fan until their playoffs, which, in this strike-shortened season, is almost upon us. I follow the Bruins enough to know a couple of trades brought the eventual Hall of Famer who is on the downside of his career, Jaomir Jager, to the team. Since I really don’t know too much about the sport I’ll have to watch some games just to see what he looks like. Of course, those games will be in the Championship Series.
Now, the absolute best! Baseball season has begun. Yeah, April is the cruelest month and playing ball with knit facemasks leaves a lot to be desired. But opening day (this year ESPN jumped the gun and turned it into opening night) is always the harbinger of spring and the hope that comes with it.
I know, I know, the Red Sox aren’t supposed to be very good this season. After a huge salary dump to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of last year, the Sox bought themselves a few second tier dirt-dog players in the hope of a better clubhouse attitude and a bridge to potential star minor league players. Not exactly a catbird seat situation. But virtually all 162 games have yet to be played so forgive me for not quitting on my team. I like our starting pitching despite potentially losing one to an injury during the first game he pitched (John Lackey). Love our bullpen big time, and one of our budding stars, (would be two except the Sox spent 9.5 million for a one year shortstop so Jose Iglesias will be sent down as soon as nine and a half is ready to play), Jackie Bradley Jr., a twenty year old outfielder, has started every game and held his own—especially in the field. I don’t know if they’ll keep him in the majors all season or send him down for more seasoning, but he sure looks like the real deal.
I’m certain that in every major league city, fans are doing what I do—thinking, hoping to find rationales for why their team will be in the race. You know what? That’s what spring is for—no matter the temperature. The thought makes me smile.
But it’s not just the rooting that grabs my chops when baseball season begins. It is, as I’ve written in other posts, the game itself. Which is why, when people rightfully complain about ticket prices, ballpark signage, refreshment costs, parking, and steroids, I frankly don’t give a shit. Truth is, I’ve been priced out of Fenway for a decade. Which is why for a buck twenty I buy MLB.com, which allows me to watch every team outside my home area for the entire season.
What I care about is how the catcher calls the game, how the pitcher is spotting the ball, the small adjustments the defense makes batter to batter. The game as a whole and the games within the game. I just love it.
So that’s it from this spring’s sports desk. I understand that what I’ve written isn’t for everyone—hell, Sue’s out there in the yard looking for a hint of green and searching for buds. But if Detroit plays in the World Series (her home town), she’ll be watching.
Heywood Broun: “The tragedy of life is not that man loses but that he almost wins.”