Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Start Now

Good evening and welcome Red Sox fans, to your somewhat disappointing Opening Day of baseball! As of 2 pm on April 1st, Trot Nixon is out until May, Nomar will miss about as much, Kim won't pitch until late April, and Pedro can't throw above 90. But we shouldn't worry, it's only Spring Training -- the land where miles per hour are makebelieve! Were this the situation at any other time in the season, there would be anarchy. Looting, house fires, good Jim Carrey movies, etc. Two of our best hitters are down, one starter's hurt, and another looks like Wes Gardner without the gas. Imagine that scenario in late July with a West Coast trip looming? The Ninth holds its nose. But right now, things are different. Now is the beginning of a new season, and our spirits are made of bulletproof. We have gluttonous Sundays to plan, and if Nomar and Trot can't be a part of it, that's their loss. Because of their exciting offseason (scheduling occurred during the ARod-to-Boston-is-a-lock era), the Red Sox were granted the prestigious ESPN Sunday Night opener slot. Sox fans have all day to get ready for the season -- oh boy. Here's how it's looking:

  • 7:05 AM, Sunday Morning: Open wildly exhausted eyes as body feels all days should begin like work days. This is a real hootenany, hu? Monday through Friday, your greatest wish is five more minutes, and then when you have infinite more minutes, your body breaks out the ha ha internal alarm clock. The thought crosses your mind that you could get a real headstart on the day if you got up now, but it keeps crossing it, trips over a wastebasket and falls out the window. You put on vaguely effeminate eye shield things, and go back to sleep.

  • 9:46 AM: Awake again as the portly child in the backyard thinks now is the perfect time to work on his jumpshot. You open the window, eye shield in place, and remind the boy that his Mother is more flirtatious than she rightfully ought to be. You have gone too far, but you don't care. It's opening day.

  • 10:55 AM: You begrudgingly open your eyes and accept that the sleeping is over. This does not mean however that you must get out of bed. You lie under the covers and consider potential lineups for this evening's game. Might Daubach hit Ponson better than Burks? Who will be the first reliever out of the shoot? Why is that fat kid still playing basketball? You open up your laptop, fire off a quick email to the State Police, and see what the Boston papers have to say. Dan Shaughnessey has submitted his annual Pedro no hitter prediction, complete with stamp in upper-right corner, and the rest of the "news" is somewhat uninspired. A bit about Francona, a piece on Pokey starting at short, maybe something on the Orioles offseason moves. You click over to the Herald and realize that they have the identical stories written by different humans. Alas. The daily (ahem) check of The Top of the Ninth reveals no new article. Again. Oy.

  • 11:21 AM: Up and out of bed, the proverbial spring is in the step. Into the bathroom, you complete a thorough cleanliness regiment. Immediately, thoughts turn to breakfast. There's no more enjoyable way to celebrate a relaxing Sunday at home than with a hearty eggs and meat morning meal. But you also have to keep the rest of the day in mind. A breakfast like that will fill you up considerably, and take up valuable beer/chips/hot dog pizza room for later in the day. You play it safe and opt for cereal, congratulating yourself for a mature, responsible decision. Mom was wrong about you.

  • 12:30 PM: The first Baseball Tonight of the day is on. Harold Reynolds is oddly smug for a guy who never broke .301. Karl Ravech promises the viewer "Peter Gammons' special breakdown of tonight's O's/Sox Game" for three commercial breaks, then all you get is 4 seconds on the game and 20 on how good the ball is coming out of Kent Merker's hand. Even though they have nothing to actually report (Japan doesn't count), it's still fun to hear the music and look at the graphics again. You get giddy thinking about tuning in at 11 pm on weeknights to see highlights of a game you already watched. Life just feels better in baseball season. Jeff Brantley celebrates by looking like a convict.

  • 1:43 PM: After watching an episode and a half of TiVo'd Newlyweds (maybe that's just me), you take to the phones. Everyone has their stable of Sox call potentials, people you phone to complain, excite, and talk strategy. There's the Dad, the high school buddies, the random Bostonians - and on opening day you call them all. It's usually pretty standard: the first five minutes are chit chat, finding out the general details of the person's non-baseball existence. You both know why you're really calling, and you can hear the anticipation in their voice, but you go through the gentleman's five anyway. For dignity's sake. Then, when the jobs and girlfriends and families have been covered, there is a brief pause, you clear your throats, and one of you utters..."so, opening night tonight, hu?". And that's all it takes. What's Pedro's status? Has he really been saving his arm or is he going to get shelled? Is Nomar's absence going to have a big effect? If Grady were managing would the Sox have already lost? This can go on for a solid 45 minutes, complete with an inspired "I can't wait" or a "Finally!" every 10 or so. Towards the end you toss in a few Patriot or Celtic notes, but today is opening day. You sign off with "talk to you after the game", call the next person on your list, and have the identical conversation again. Ah, baseball.

  • 3:45 PM: Undisclosed personal time.

  • 3:47 PM: There is a game tonight and you have no snacks. Not good. For some reason, in your mind, opening day is similar to an impending blizzard. You could get to the store too late and all the valuable stuff will be gone. Except in this case batteries = salsa, and bottled water = mini oreo's. You head down to the deli, prepared to fight an old lady for cheez whiz. Turns out, you won't have to -- there are plenty of snacks to go around. Guess everyone isn't as crazy as you. You fill your basket with a careful ratio of sweet to salty, grab a couple sixers of Michelob Ultra, because hey, you don't want to make a pig of yourself, and hit the check out.

  • 5:00 PM: Three hours to game time, and let's be frank, you don't have much to do. This is the first of 162 games, not the definitive moment of the season, and you're starting to feel a little silly. You could watch some tube, but you already pushed it a bit with the Newlyweds things and you feel opening day deserves something bigger. You browse through the DVD's and find the answer smiling up at you, the Patriots 2003 Super Bowl. Still in its original wrizapper. Sweetskies. You pop that boy in, crack open a low-carb alcoholic beverage, and watch the magic all over again. You can't help but think, as you doze off for a nap...

  • 8:00 PM: What if this is the year?

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