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Sunday, March 30, 2008

OPENING DAY IS TOMORROW (well, tonight kinda)

That's right, besides tonights Braves-Nationals one game "look at our ballpark" game, Opening Day starts in earnest tomorrow. Tomorrow starts the first of 162 wonderful Cubs games to keep you from having to deal with the reality of your own life. Girlfriend left ya? Well Derrek Lee hasn't so sit your ass down and turn on WGN. Dying of a terminal illness? So you suffer for a few painful months preoccupied with your own demise. Welcome to life as a Cubs fan! Grab an Old Style and shut up! Wondering what that massive lump on your neck is? It can wait till after the massive lump that is Daryle Ward hits a pinch hit home run to win the game!

Seriously, though, ask any kid,even those that have played both football and baseball on a team, what sport they wished they could play professionally. Jeff Samardzija chose baseball over football. When Michael Jordan had reached the highest of heights in basketball, he went back and he tried baseball. Bo Jackson had it in him to be one of the greatest runningbacks of all time, and he risked it by playing baseball and football. The skeptic will tell you its because there's less chance of getting hurt in baseball, its not a contact sport, it requires less physical exertion. True, all of that may be the reason. But I'm willing to wager that any kid, whoever got that first glove, oiled it, slept with under his mattress with it wrapped around a ball wouldn't tell you its because its easier. Baseball captivates and holds people for life in a way no other sport can. In football its the aesthetic thrill of watching the crack and the thunder of the collisions, of watching the ball fly in the air, and the dazzling catches. Then the game is over, the people head home, and you wait another week. In baseball you see a walk off home run, a complete game shutout saved by a diving catch into the wall by the centerfielder, and you go back, you watch the replay on Sportscenter, and the next day its waiting for you again.

I, like most kids, can still remember that first glove, and how Dad taught me how to use it. How you learn not to be afraid of the ball by having it hit you in the mouth one time and realizing you'll survive. How you sit there and stare the time you hit your first home run, not to show off like Manny Ramirez or Barry Bonds, but just out of sheer amazement that you had the ability to do that. 99.9% will never play Major League Baseball. Hell, I never played high school baseball. But every Opening Day I raced home from school, made excuses to get out of whatever afternoon commitments I had, and got in just in time to catch the last 6 or 7 innings. Baseball's seen a lot in the way of scandals the last decade, from strikes to steroids to Selig. But if you were never watching for the home runs or the excitement, if the reason you sit down in front of a TV to watch the game is just to know that its still there, just like it was when you were four years old and your grandfather talked your ear off while going on about Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and how much he feared having to see the Cubs pitch to Willie Stargell, you never left. Sure, the Cubs could go 66-96 just three years after being 5 outs away from the World Series, and you could curse and swear and Vow not to be pulled into it again. Then someone tells you they signed Alfonso Soriano and you find yourself checking spring training box scores. It's just the game. Just the game.

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