“Well, beat the drum and hold the phone--the sun came out today! We're born again, there's new grass on the field. A-roundin' third, and headed for home, it's a brown-eyed handsome man. Anyone can understand the way I feel. Oh, put me in, Coach! I'm ready to play today….Look at me, I can be centerfield." --John Fogerty, “Centerfield”
So has anyone else noticed that the Boston Red Sox 2012 home opener is on Friday the 13th? Or that the Sox celebration of Fenway Park’s 100th birthday the following Friday, April 20th , which commemorates the first game played at the park, is just five days removed from another infamous 100th anniversary, the sinking of the Titanic on April 15th, 1912? Coincidence!? Destiny!? Is it already time to panic about our boys of summer? Are they headed towards an iceberg of sandlot disaster still so early in the regular season?
As I write this column on Monday the 9th, the Sox are winless, 0-3. Their bullpen has been a train wreck thus far. Injuries are mounting up. Already the sports pages and talk radio shows are overflowing with naysayers. And Wakefield is gone. Varitek is gone. Francona is gone. Papelbon is gone.
It feels like it almost always used to feel in Red Sox Nation, pre-2004 and the breaking of “the curse” with a Word Series Championship. From 1918 to a sweet late October night almost eight years, Red Sox fans were perpetual doom and gloomers, forever fearing that the baseball gods would send another black cat or banana peel or broken mirror our way so the BoSox could then inevitably find another way to lose again. Remember?
This kind of spiritual attitude recalls a king of pessimists, Eeyore the donkey, in A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” books. He is always a glass half-empty kind of character, one who can find defeat in anything if given a chance. "’It's snowing still,’ said Eeyore gloomily. ‘So it is,’ answered Pooh. ‘And freezing.’ ‘Is it?’ ‘Yes,’ said Eeyore. ‘However,’ he said, brightening up a little, ‘we haven't had an earthquake lately.’"
But not me. Not this season. Instead I’m going to try my absolute best to not turn into Eeyore this year. I won’t go there. Can’t go there. I refuse to cast my lot with the poor suffering souls who can see life, on and even off the playing field, not as an amazing daily gift from God to be savored, but instead as a cross to be endured, even a disaster just waiting to happen. Why my dewy eyed hope, this Pollyannaish pugnaciousness, this happy hopefulness?
Because it is Opening Day at Fenway Park Friday—OPENING DAY! This is one truth and joy that cannot be denied or extinguished, no matter what the early season standings might report. Opening Day: and so the grass at Fenway is green and lush and every blade that points skyward is a testament to hope, a poignant memory filled echo of all the other opening days we’ve known. Opening Day: we get to taste again the first smoky snap of a Fenway frank, the first cold hops of a chilled beer clutched in our hands. We get to hear the first crunch of peanut shells as they artistically accumulate in a pile under our seat. Opening Day: with spring sunshine not quite so hot yet, but warm enough to reassure us that summer will come again, no turning it back.
Opening Day: a new day. Day one. It all starts all over again: life, possibility, the anticipation of a long season when anything can happen. The book has yet to be written. The story is in chapter one, page one. It’s all fresh and clean.
Good way to be a Red Sox fan. An even greater way to live this miracle called human life. Because with God, every day is Opening Day if we choose to have that quality of faith. Doesn’t mean we won’t lose sometimes: blow a lead in the ninth, or whiff at a third strike, or drop the ball. If we are going to compete and live fully and with passion, errors are inevitable.
Yet here’s the gift. Each day it is a brand new game and the score is 0-0. Each day we get to bat again, take a mighty swing and sometimes we’ll get a hit and sometimes we’ll even launch a game winning home run.
It is all good. It is Opening Day. Let’s PLAY BALL!