Saturday, July 26, 2014

TFP Column: Rites Of Spring

(Contrary to all logic and reason, I have decided to put new material up on this blog, but only in the form of the columns that I have done for the Toledo Free Press.  This is done for the benefit of those with time to waste, who likewise do not spend their time reading the website of this award winning weekly newspaper, and I will go back and add efforts that were published earlier this year.)

This particular effort was published on 04/03/2014.
Despite the dire prognostications of the Pennsylvania rodent population, the contradictory evidence of flowers that seem brave enough to begin poking their way into the sunlight (though forced to do so through the semi-frozen ground of global climate change) and despite the mirage of lingering snow drifts to your lying eyes ... spring is finally here.

Spring means many things to many people. Here in the Midwest, it means planting of crops for farmers (or in some cases, getting the government to pay you not to plant them by placing land in a “soil bank”). It means fertilizing the lawn, then rushing to tune up the lawnmower so we can cut it after stimulating its growth. It’s likely to mean it’s time to repair the car’s suspension from that unfortunate assignation with a pothole the size of that meteor crater in Winslow, Ariz.
One of the most important things about spring however is sports. Spring is in fact the convergence of all things sports.  College basketball holds its two different tournaments, the NCAA championship for the “feasible,” the “unlikely,” and the “surprising” and the NIT for those whose yearly efforts haven’t reached the previously mentioned levels, but should be rewarded by face-saving and revenue-generating post-season play. The professional basketball season is also winding to a close, with more teams making its postseason play than missing it, and the usual suspects likely to be there at the end.
Hockey follows basketball to a season close in the growing warmth, though it’s outdoor play these days is only for show and therefore not an impediment.  Like its brother basketball, it too has fallen prey to the lure of revenue, and far too many will contest to dethrone the Chicago Blackhawks and lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Football too has begun, whether you’re talking about the spring practices of the college teams of the U.S. version or the more accurately defined world sporting event that’s only in recent years getting its proper due in this country.
The king of sports this time of year, however, is and always will be the national sport, baseball. Oh sure, they messed with Opening Day this year by allowing the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers to play one in Australia, before the traditional opening game in Cincinnati; but games played on the other side of the international dateline can probably be discounted in a 162-game season. 

Regardless of whether snow must be cleared from the fields and long sleeves are the rule rather than the exception on the field, it’s time to “Play Ball!”
Across the nation, we abandon balmy living rooms and cheerfully face the often frozen confines of a land where “hope springs eternal.” We encourage our overpriced stars, cheer those we’ve never seen before, but who show early promise and salute those who, perhaps unknown even to themselves, are taking their final lap as men playing a boy’s game.
This spring is particularly special for some of us, as it commemorates the 100th anniversary of historic Wrigley Field in Chicago. This celebration is likely to be rather muted however, since the Cubs have failed to win a World Series during the entire century of this ballpark’s existence and the Cubs enter what’s likely to be the 108th year of their rebuilding program.
A point that forces one to take note that not all things associated with spring are positive is that politicians are already out on the stump, attending fundraising dinners across the country and forming exploratory groups, while simultaneously denying that such efforts exists. (A curious process since the only thing that such exploration groups seem to discover is a previously unknown groundswell movement for the candidate to run.)  For those seeking further evidence of the dire consequences of the season, it’s also less than two weeks until tax day.
Alfred Tennyson told us that “In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Recalling dim memories of having been one during the Dark Ages of history, I believe I can say without fear of challenge that a young man’s fancy seldom strays from such thoughts.  For many this week, however, the glorious contemplation of such emotions and perhaps of the fairer sex in general will be done in the Glass City with a hot dog and an adult beverage at Fifth Third Field. 

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