Let’s face it: February sucks. It sucks so much, in fact, that all kinds of organizations, from unions to my former home province, look for any reason at all to declare at least one long weekend during the whole thing. Reading break, so welcome in November (read: near the end of fall semester), comes ridiculously early in the winter/spring term, and spring break.. well, you’ve seen the late night commercials. Spring break looks like a lot of fun.
But most of us don’t have spring break, and most of us don’t work for entities that are willing to declare holidays. Some of us, in fact, work for entities where a declared holiday has absolutely no effect on whether you can slack off at home while hung over or not. Which sucks, but this is the life we chose. So February, for the majority of us, sucks.
When I was a kid, it meant snow, crazy-cold weather punctuated by crazy-warm chinooks (depending on the vagarities of coastal weather), being tackled to the thawing turf during those rare moments of mid-winter warmth, and not getting Valentine’s Day cards. Now that I’m theoretically grown up and live elsewhere, I have to watch for the mud and deal with crazy-cold weather punctuated by rain. I don’t get tackled anymore, and as for the Valentine’s Day cards.. well, let’s just say that some years are better than others, and this was a very good year.
As I’ve gotten older, though, and as I’ve come to have different hobbies, and as my love for certain things has intensified, I’ve begun to see February in an entirely different light. And it all has to do with four simple little words that make most of my friends roll their eyes: “Pitchers and catchers report.” Go ahead, laugh. It’s stupid. It’s baseball. Sports fandom, for the non-fan, is always incomprehenisbly dumb. But baseball, the sport of the long season, the sport with 162 days of news and surprise and delight, has six months of dormancy — and every year, I anticipate the approach of the new season a little bit more. Those words become sweeter every year; the wait between the end of the World Series and Opening Day becomes longer every year, too.
This year felt worse than most. I missed baseball more that I think I did last year, despite the crappy crappy season of Mariners baseball I was forced to endure in 2004. Anticipation built and built, thanks to some truly brilliant moves on the part of the team, and I cannot wait for 4 April — it’s just going to be a beautiful thing, watching this team take to the field. Last year I went to Arizona for my first spring training; this year, it’s not possible, but I’ll be there in spirit. There’s no better way to kiss the winter goodbye, and usher in spring, than watching the fledgling baseball season get off the ground. A fabulous, wonderous thing.
The old game waits under the white
Deeper than frozen grass
Down at the frost line, it waits
To return, when the birds return
It starts to wake in the south
where it’s never quite stopped
Where winter is a doze of hibernation
The game wakes gradually
fathering vigor to itself as the days lengthen late in February
and grow warmer
Old muscles grow limber
Young arms throw strong and wild
Clogged vein systems in veteran oaks and left-fielders both
Unstop themselves putting forth leaves and line drives
in Florida’s March
Migrating north with the swallows
Baseball and the grasses first green
Enter Cleveland, Kansas City, Boston