Published February 13, 2014
It comes every year and arrives silently one early spring morning. There are soft sounds of birds and the warm light of the sun coming up. And, as the day unfolds, there is the grunting of young men exercising, and then the crack of bats as baseball begins once again. Its dominant color is green.
Every year brings the magical combination of an ancient game renewing the fresh expectations of another season. Every year, we know what to expect; we have seen it before. Yet every year, we rejoice in the arrival of baseball.
Why do we care? Why are we so happy to see such familiar things reappear?
The answer lies deep within our national soul. We love baseball precisely because it is so old and so familiar and unchanged. It has the allure of being permanent. It does not seem to be subject to the same rules of life and death as we are.For baseball never dies. It springs to life again and seems to shout out to us that there is hope. We are delighted to be deceived.
Wistfully, we believe that, like baseball, we can be renewed and young again. We can shrug off winter as baseball does every year.
Yes, we remember when we played the game, when we saw Mays and Mantle and DiMaggio and Aaron and Jeter at their best. In the far corners of our memories we are reliving our youth.
Baseball turns time upside down, and we remember our dads taking us to the ballpark to teach us how to watch a game and what to look for.
We know, down deep, this season will involve the bitter dregs of disappointment. We will experience the frustrations of the season and not be at all surprised. But for now, in this, the early spring, every team is undefeated and there are high hopes for the miracles we know are so unlikely. We also know we are not young any longer.
This hope in a glorious future and our denial of the lessons of the past explain why we love the baseball spring.
We want to believe in a future we know will not be what we would like. Baseball seems to be different.
It is all about Hope. It is the hope of the child, and baseball makes us remember the dreams of our youth and holds out the hope those dreams might – just once – come true. Perhaps it is this blind force that also explains why we buy lottery tickets. Hope ranks, after all, just behind Faith and just ahead of Charity in the listing of virtues.
For many of us, the sights and sounds of baseball refresh us. Fixed in our memory are the familiar batting stances of our heroes.
We remember how the top pitcher for our team throws and we note which players seem to appear bigger and stronger.
Hope stirs as we are reminded how much we enjoy the sounds of the games and the ebullient chatter of the television commentators.
In our fantasy life, these baseball people are the old friends of our youth. They are the neighborhood kids we have not seen for the winter. Now we are all back together again in the sunlight at the ball yard. The world can now move on. Baseball is back and we are young.
This mostly subconscious mixture of hope -- leavened by reality -- enhances baseball. For we know the sad truth: the lovely spring will become a tough summer, just as our lives have brought us some defeats and harsh times.
Baseball cannot defeat Time nor keep us young. Yet, somehow, baseball entices us with the delirious hope that this year might be different. We have again fallen for the belief in happy endings. It will always be that way.