Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It happens every spring

Friends, I come before you bearing good tidings and warm wishes, particularly the latter.  I won't belabor the obvious point about our endless winter, but to say that we can only hope the worst is behind us.

No, I wish to talk about spring, and the renewal it brings in so many respects.  More immediate of what happens this time of year is the NCAA men's basketball tournament, or, as it's commonly referenced, March Madness (and God help me that I didn't use quotes or a trademark or whatever).  It officially started list night with some "First Four" games, which used to be called "play-in" games.  Ultimately, the tournament, which once upon a time involved only 32 teams, now involves 68 and I fully expect it will be many more teams in the next few years.  After all, what other event draws the television audience over a three week period than this event?  More teams means more games, more ratings, and larger rights fees, so it'll happen.

And I also will not use this space to decry the process through which teams are selected and seeded in their various regional brackets.  Kentucky has underachieved all year and wound up an 8 seed, other schools overachieved and were ranked higher, but not always.  Should be fun to see what happens from here.

The other major area for renewal, and one that has a longer lifespan each year, is, of course, baseball. Teams are right now going through spring training (which used to be much more necessary when players had to have offseason jobs outside of the game, instead of spending the winter lifting weights and working out) and from what I'm reading, there's a certain "Groundhog Day" effect to it now, repetition, same place, etc.  So players, coaches, managers and writers are anxious for real games to come, which will occur in about ten days.

Let me share something poignant that was written about baseball by the late A. Bartlett Giamatti, former commissioner, National League President and president of Yale University.  I always come back to this quote each spring, and I think you'll see why:

“It [baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

Wow.  I love to write, but if I could write that eloquently, well....of course, Giamatti was a professor of comparative literature....

But it's true, isn't it?  And true of a lot of things in life.  I've often thought that baseball is a bit of a microcosm for life.  You'll win some, you'll lose some, but it's how we play the game, in a manner of speaking.

I'm roughly halfway through the Ken Burns "Baseball" miniseries from the early 90's, as I watch the entire set every spring to get into the mood for the game (the fact that I do so on my treadmill means it really is MY spring training!).  As I watch this masterpiece, I'm struck by how baseball has never lacked for characters, good and bad, drama, and many, MANY emotional highs and lows.  Just like life, I think.

I have no objection to anyone who disagrees with my surmise that baseball and life bear close comparison.  But for those who feel at list somewhat as I do, it's going to be a great season, isn't it?

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