Spring is my favorite time of year for more reasons than just the chirping birds and the humming bees. My birthday comes on tax day with my parents showing me overt levels of love and affection. Spring Break and Spring Party Weekend allow me to relieve the stresses of everyday life with a deadly mixture of day-time drinking and human interaction. Even here in Hamilton, the temperatures begin to climb above 40 degrees and patches of green grass push their way through the seemingly endless tarp of snow and ice. However, these significant joys pale in comparison to the excitement I feel when America’s pastime returns from a winter hibernation filled with rumors and anticipation. Forget our beloved groundhog’s prediction; when pitchers and catchers report, springtime has truly arrived.
I don’t know why, but nothing tickles the sports fan in me more than a new baseball season on the horizon. The great thing about all sports is that every season brings a fresh start. Unlike the real world, past transgressions and failures mostly stay in the past while redemption is easy to come by (apologies to the Mitchell Report Alumni). The phrase “What have you done for me lately?” takes on new meaning in a league where even the Derek Jeters of the world can hear boos from time to time. While hope might come once per generation in the political arena (See Obama, Barack), every season carries with it a renewed sense of hope that this might be the year for any given team. That’s what Marlins fans believed in 2003, Red Sox fans believed in 2004, White Sox fans in 2005 and so on and so forth. Even the handful of Rays fans will be checking the box scores this spring and dreaming of what their team could be if some of their prospects pan out. Maybe that’s the thing about sports, baseball in particular, that appeals to Americans: everyone has a shot. For a society that worships the underdog, baseball always seems to give us a surprise contender or two. Some have made the argument that small-market teams lack that puncher’s chance, but the 2007 Rockies shot that assumption down quickly with their miracle run to the World Series. Whether its Tigers fans salivating over their projected lineup, or Diamondback fans getting giddy over a two-headed ace at the top of their rotation, every team seems loaded with optimism and anticipation come springtime.
Hope is one neat idea that helps to explain America’s fascination with baseball, but don’t all sports share these expectations to varying degrees? What makes baseball different from its main competitor in terms of popularity, the NFL? The answer lies in baseball’s overactive off-season. Unlike the NFL, where the salary cap prevents many of the biggest mega deals, baseball has unbelievable amounts of player turnover during the off-season. I can guarantee Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will never switch teams during their primes, but Johan Santana can be seen donning a crisp new Mets jersey down in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Because baseball brings such chaos every off-season, the intrigue of spring training is met with renewed interest every year. In addition to the questions regarding new players, several other questions are sure to make their way to the media forefront. How will the aforementioned players named in the Mitchell Report react to all the negative publicity? How will the Yankees young pitchers perform? Where and when will Barry Bonds debut for a new team? These are just a few of the questions that are sure to be asked repeatedly this spring. The thrill of the unknown exists more in baseball than in any other sport and we’re attracted to it like first-years to the Old Stone Jug.
As I settle into my daily routine of checking Yankee updates, browsing fantasy baseball websites and watching every game I can get access to, my family and friends will all take a backseat to my yearly obsession. I’m swamped with work, I’m without my car due to Hamilton’s violently cold weather and I haven’t been entirely healthy for quite some time now, all while my last semester of college is slowly but surely slipping away. Not unlike many Colgate seniors I suppose. With that said, absolutely none of it matters. Now that springtime is here and baseball is back, I couldn’t be happier. In the words of the great Yogi Berra, “This is like déj? vu all over again.”