Monday, March 19, 2012

Baseball Season

My ex-roommate once mentioned that watching sports on TV was completely antithetical to the spirit of sports because devoting yourself to a team obligated you to spend three sedentary hours staring at a screen. He was right. But there's more to it than that. Living vicariously through other people's athletic achievements on a refracted frame of glass is about a lot more than the experience of competition. To be honest, the thrill I once got from watching live competition is now found elsewhere in my life - in playing pool for myself, in negotiating convoluted sim league trades where the "roster" of players is one I have constructed (both still indoor sports, admittedly). But the fact that I have found personal outlets for my competitive drives doesn't completely devalue the source material.

I live in Victoria. Victoria is a small town on an island - from a climate perspective, at times an almost subtropical island. Because of our proximity to the ocean, among many other factors, we don't have clearly delineated seasons. Some years we'll have a summer afternoon in January and a snowstorm in March, and other years we'll have one blizzard all year and not much else of a winter. This year our main issue has been occasional hurricane-force winds. Other than being awakened by my bedroom window rattling in the 100 km/hr gales, though, I've found it a very temperate February and March. Which is to say, there has been no real solstice moment. My recollections of Ontario are of the calendar solstices coming early, but once the weather finally broke, the season was over. A few weeks of slush and then spring, a couple of brisk winds followed by barren trees for Hallow's Eve. It might still be zero on Opening Day, but by Easter more times than not spring was in full throttle towards summer.  It's not like that here. Spring doesn't so much emerge from winter as it becomes a more consistent version of itself, and as such the barometers of the seasons become something else. Hockey on TV means winter, college basketball means spring, baseball means summer.

So watching Brett Cecil face off against Cole Hamels with his inferior stuff (but better results) yesterday was about so much more than just the most meaningless of meaningless blowouts. It was baseball, real live baseball. Yan Gomes as Arencibia's doppelganger from facial hair to position to alma mater? A BautistaBomb? Eddy in left field? Anthony Gose flashing his wheels? Jimmy Rollins gifting Ben Francisco a stat-padding single which led the main offensive outburst of the game? Hell, a Mickey Mick suicide squeeze?  Spring, hope eternal, whatever other sterile metaphors you choose to bestow upon it; a hallmark moment which prepared me to dig in for the 162 games that matter.

This is about a lot more than sitting on a couch and watching paint dry.

I've always liked the perfect closure of the annual baseball season; unlike hockey or basketball, the seasons don't flow against the Gregorian calendar. Every baseball season marks a year, and you can mark the years of your life off by the seasons. 2007 - staggering bleary-eyed through the halls of my dormitory during first-year exams for a rainout. 2010 - a rebirth, the first year without Halladay, and that spring I was leeching cable off my far more established and alien roommate. My university years were a dark place, mostly literally (so many hovels without television access), but even still, I refer back to the baseball seasons by the years. 

Take 2006: the year of the all-in push. Ricciardi went after Glaus, Burnett, Molina, Overbay and Ryan. It was also the year I graduated from high school, piled into a beat-up truck and drove across the country to start a new life at university. False hope? The '06 Blue Jays were good, but not good enough, and eventually the failure of those five drove Ricciardi out of town. Victoria wasn't everything I thought it would be, but it was something, and I'm here six years later a different person than I left.

Of course this yearly encapsulation isn't perfect in a real-world sense; the school years themselves adhere much more closely to hockey or basketball season. Living in a Canadian university town, I can tell you firsthand that there's a lot more action in April than there is in October or December. Still, as I while away the next two weeks enjoying my laissez-faire city, preparing for fantasy drafts and trying to bring my sim team a championship, I will know that when the next Blue Jays game comes on television, it will mean something.

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