Thursday, February 16, 2012

Football season is over, baseball will soon be upon us

By Richard K. Barry 

But first, an intro from MJWS:

Ah, baseball. Seriously, it's time to get this going. It's been tough for me since the Steelers lost in the playoffs to the Tebowners. They're my team. I love them. And I'm emotionally invested in them in a way that at times leaves me completely drained. I followed the NFL playoffs, of course, and wrote about them here, but what's been more compelling is following the Steelers' challenging off-season: new offensive coordinator, contract restructurings, looming free agency, the draft. It's a year-round obsession. I'm still draining, but there's always next year.

And, really, I haven't been into hockey and basketball at all this year. Perhaps because the Canadiens are so bad and the Raptors are even worse, but also because I don't like either sport as much as football or baseball, especially basketball. It's supposedly a golden age in the NBA. So says Bill Simmons. Yet I just can't get into it, not with the prima donnas and widespread lack of fundamental skills. I grew up a Celtics fan in Montreal, with Larry Bird one of my idols. Now I hardly care at all. (And Linsanity is just annoying, though the guy's certainly a breath of fresh air in a league full of pretentious assholes.) Being Canadian -- and specifically from Montreal -- I can't get hockey out of my system, but it's just not doing it for me this year. Maybe I'm just worn out after the NFL season. Maybe I just need a break. Even from fantasy. My two hockey teams are doing terribly. I won my hardcore 12-team league last year. This year I'm in last. Alas.

But I'm excited about the upcoming baseball season -- and fantasy baseball season (baseball's my best fantasy sport by far, and I've won my similarly hardcore 12-team league seven of the past nine years). A lot of this has to do with my love for baseball generally. It's just such a beautiful game. I love the daily play, the season's rhythms. And I love having the baseball package on TV, where I'm able to watch every game. I don't, of course, but I catch a lot of them, and I like those summer evenings when I can flip from game to game.

But a lot of it also has to do with the Jays. I grew up an Expos fan and remained one until they left for Washington. (I still remember that crushing loss to the Dodgers in '81. I was a kid, and that one really hurt.) That was it for me. No way I could root, root, root for the fucking Nationals. And having lived in Toronto for many years now, I just gravitated to the Jays, somewhat reluctantly at first -- I don't by default like this city's sports teams. I despise the Leafs, for example -- following them in the AL as I followed the Expos in the NL. And I suppose I've been a serious fan for a good five or six years now, maybe a bit more.

It's hard to get too excited with the team in the AL East and in a league with a ridiculously unfair system that lets the rich spend whatever they like without much of a penalty while everyone else struggles to catch lightning in a bottle. But I am excited about these Jays. At the very least, they have a ton of potential and might just field an exciting, and perhaps surprising, team this year -- and hopefully in years to come will be serious contender. I'll be following them closely this year, as I have throughout the off-season, and I look forward to heading down to the Rogers Centre from time to time to take in a game. Good times.

Anyway, we'll be writing about baseball here throughout the season. Maybe not with the regularly we did with football, but we'll try to break up the politics now and then with some baseball talk.

For now, though, over to Richard...

**********

Jose Bautista
Football is my sport. Baseball is in second place, but it is, I must admit, a distant second, though I like the game and the promise of spring that comes with a new season.

A few weeks ago, my beloved New York Giants won the Super Bowl. I will be months coming down from that, but it is over and baseball is around the corner so I'd better start thinking about it.

I grew up a Mets fan in New York but have been in Toronto for so long that I am now mostly a Jays booster. I was here for the two World Series championships in the '90s and still hope they can return to former glory one of these days. In 2011, they were 81-81, perhaps something to build on.

With the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays likely in a position to outdo the Jays again this year in the division, it may take some real effort to get all that interested in the proceedings in 2012, but I promise to try. Yes, I am a fair-weather baseball fan.

For those who follow such details, the Jays' pitchers and catchers report on February 21st and the full squad on February 24th. The first spring training game is against the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 3rd and opening day is an away game against Cleveland on April 5th (3:05 p.m.).

To friends and family all over Canada and U.S. who root for different teams, I say good luck. Good luck to Rob who suffers with the Cubs and Keith who lives and dies with his Astros (and hates the Mets); all the best to my relatives from out east in Canada, who probably cheer for the Red Sox, and Sean, who follows the Tampa Bay Rays, and the other Sean, the Phillies fan, and my relatives in New York, who have been Yankee fans forever, and to the old gang from my childhood who probably still have hopes for the Mets, sad as that is these days. 

Did I forget anyone? Probably.

Time to play ball, almost.


(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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