Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Rejoice Philadelphia and baseball fans everywhere, for it is spring, and baseball is back. It is that special time of year when the weather warms the chill of winter from off our bones, the sun lasts just a little longer, the people become lighter in their gait; smile just a little more, and girls start wearing summer dresses. Oh, summer dresses. But I digress . . . Spring is that time of year when hope is renewed for something more, and nowhere is this more evident than on Opening Day. The slate of last year has been wiped clean; everyone is equal yet again. Shit, even the Mets aren’t in last place yet (unless you are reading this past Thursday, April 5, in which case, they probably are). As our dear old friend Harry would say, “you gotta have high hopes.” That is what Opening Day is for. The opening day of baseball season (we’re ignoring that Japanese series because Bud Selig is a moron) marks the beginning of a better life, one filled with cookouts, shared beer between friends, and a gathering of families around the radio to listen to their beloved team (No one wants to hear Tmac & Co). It is that time of year when fathers sit with their sons to tell them tales of Mike Schmidt sending one over a left field fence, of a beer-bellied John Kruk hitting .316 one magical year, of Lefty and his un-hittable slider – “Like trying to eat soup with a fork,” they will tell them. And those boys will grow to be men who tell their children how Roy Halladay was perfect one late day in May, how, when all seemed lost, Jimmy Rollins sent one in the gap to right to send the Dodgers to the showers to join Manny Ramirez, or how Chase Utley summed-up a beautiful day in autumn with three little words. You know the ones.
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
But alas, we are Philadelphia, and nothing is ever perfect. There are injuries to think about. Chase’s knee has kept him out of the Opening Day lineup for a second year in a row. Ryan Howard is missing out on the season-starting fun, too. It seems appropriate. An injury which marked the end of hopes in 2011 has still not healed, and in many ways, neither have way. The sting of great-expectations-not-met is one which does not go away easily. John Bolaris tried to salve his ailing heart with strippers and 40,000 worth of alcohol in Miami, and that didn’t work. (That’s what happen there, right?) The Phillies are facing big fat question marks in a lot of places. Young players are being asked to fill positions once held by All-Star caliber players. Jimmy Rollins is hitting in the three hole for Christ’s sake. I still contend that’s better than lead-off, but c’mon, he’s no three-hole player.
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
And then, there is our history to think about. We are Philadelphia – a city which knows heartbreak like an old friend. This is the Phillies – the most-losing team in sports history. Not baseball history, sports history. In many ways, Philadelphia and baseball is like a marriage so long we forget what we saw in each other in the first place. Sure, we’re in love, but it hasn’t always been a honeymoon suite in Paradise. There’s been 128 years of Phillies’ ball in The City of Brotherly Love, and only two of them have ended in a parade. We have a right to be skeptical. We’ve seen hopes dashed in a Canadian dome (God damn you, Joe Carter!). We’ve been optimistic before, only to see our big-bopper make the last out of a season too short (Twice in recent memory). And that is the thing about baseball, all but one team has its season end with a loss. Loss. It leaves a bitter taste in anyone’s mouth, and no one has pursed their lips, as they palleted something as horrid as loss, more than the people of Philadelphia. There’s only one thing that washes out the flavor of defeat, and that is victory.
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Victory. That is our life to come. The Phillies will, eventually, take that bitter sting of yesteryear away with a “W” in a box score. Sooner, rather than later, that “W” will appear, and last year will fade into the past like a setting sun behind the walls of Citizen Bank Park. Roy Halladay will take the ball in his hand and set those steely eyes on a group of nine who dare to oppose him. Cliff Lee will beat teams with his arm and his bat, and do it all with a look of indifference. Young players will be given their chance to shine and surprise analysts who know all. Old friends will join the game to remind a city why they fell in love with them in the first place. Hunter Pence will be awkward as he dazzles the people of Philadelphia with a dash, a stab, a swing, a slide, a post game interview in which he spawns tee-shirts and signs with a catch phase that melts our hearts yet again. Young boys will dream of being men who do great things with gloves of leather and pieces of lumber. Old men will be transformed once again into little boys who dare to dream. It is spring. Baseball is here. Philadelphia, rejoice.
That was Alexander Pope, by the way, in the italics. And they say Philadelphians don’t have couth. We shit couth.
Happy Opening Day, everyone. The dream starts now.