Monday, March 31, 2008

"the thrill of the grass"

There is something about opening day. I came to baseball like most young people via my dad. He was a Yankee fan- but my mother was a Dodger fan and so growing up in Chicago being a Cubs fan was out of the question and so I fell in love with the White Sox.

For me it was the 1977 White Sox, the South Side Hitmen, Harry Caray, Wayne Nordhagen, Oscar Gamble and Bill Veeck that I fell in love with and that love has remained a constant for 30 years.

I always took opening day for granted.

In 1994 I was living in Bolivia and 1994 looked like OUR year. We had a great team and I was sure this was it. I would go to a bar in Cochabamba with only other White Sox fan in South America- a U of C Professor I met who was studying the Guarani people of the Chaco and watch an occasional ESPN game. Then they went on strike. 1994 gone, 1995 gone.

I remained in South America until 1998 and my interest waned. Then in the spring of 1998 I moved back to the USA and I remembered 'the thrill of the grass' . This quote from WP Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe which is better known as Field of Dreams from the mouth of Shoeless Joe Jackson was deep in me and it remains so.

Spring, Easter and Opening day. The sense that all is possible. The rhythm of the day with a game on everynight and the history. Like Catholicism if you are a Baseball fan you are part of a huge communion of saints. These saints belong to us- Ruth, Appling, Musial, Banks, Robinson they are all ours.

It is only because of the thrill of the grass that a person who I respect and admire like Mark Tardi could be infected with that most despicable of diseases, Cubfandom. Yet you have to admire Cubs fans- they are such dorks yet they love their team and their dump of a ballpark.

It was 12 months of sheer pleasure when I could say, I am watching the "world champions" and while it would be the worst year of my life I hope someday they get to say that about the baby bears, or maybe I don't. Maybe I enjoy their pain... The fact that they finally have dedicated a statue to Ernie Banks is a testament to where their priorities lay...

Some of the people I admire most in the world understand the Thrill of Grass. Most educated people understand Baseball. I can understand a distain for other sports but when someone tells me that they find Baseball boring or long I immediately get turned off like seeing a pretty woman with rotten teeth. There is something about the pace. The pure joy of Game five of the 2005 World Series, a 1-0 Shutout where the winning run was scored by Willie Harris off a chopper over the head of the second baseman.. pure joy.

So we begin opening day, against the Damn Indians. I look forward to my first trip to 35th and Shields to the first time this year- the first double play and the first hot dog- and the hope that this is the year again.

For my Cub fan friends... happy 1ooth anniversary of your last World Series Title.... as I smile..

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