OK everyone, get ready: baseball is here. Nothing compares to the baseball season. Baskebtall and hockey are half as long. Football? Merely a tenth the length of the baseball season. And college football is even shorter than that. Those other sports are like one-night stands compared to the MLB season. Baseball is a long-term relationship. Heck, it may even be a marriage. Because no other sport requires the fan to work as hard at making it work than baseball does. No other sport requires you to check the sports section every day and commit three-plus hours to the TV every night. No other sport requires you to monitor a half a dozen teams’ success and failure rates and calculate them against your own team’s likelihood of making the playoffs. And no other sport requires so much attention even on the days when your team isn’t playing (because who knows who they may be trading for or calling up?).
And it’s not as if baseball is exactly exciting, either. You can’t compare a 110-107 basketball game with a 1-0 pitchers’ duel; it’s just not a fair comparison. If anything, baseball is at its worst when the scores are really high. You always see people leaving for the parking lot early whenever you get a blowout in baseball. And a weird game like a 10-8 game is always due to either poor pitching performances (bad) or lots of unearned runs (even worse). High scores mean sloppiness. Baseball is at it’s best when the score is low, when everything is nice and tense.
But that lack of excitement translates to a sense of pleasantness. Tell me Fenway at sunset on a summer day isn’t a beautiful thing. Go on, try it. I dare you! Warm weather, late sunlight, and an insane crowd primed for the next big hit, ready to explode. That’s sports right there. That’s what it’s all about. Sure, a crowded basketball court may thunder with chants of “defense,” or an 80,000 seat stadium might scream for the next big play. But a baseball stadium can generate that same enthusiasm and power with as little as half as many attendants. Fenway rocks as hard as the Garden or Gillette and they do it with a mere 36,000 people.
Where else but in baseball (at least in Boston), does a game matter as much with 161 left as it does with 80 left? With three left? Every game is important, every game is like the playoffs. And this isn’t due to the players, although they certainly care about winning and representing their city. But ask them after Sunday’s game against the Yankees and they’ll all say the same thing: It’s one game, it’s a long season. But to Red Sox fans, it doesn’t feel that way, does it? Every game is do or die.
I can’t wait for this season. Yes, there are questions about the strength of our offense and the health of our rotation. But the thinking man’s game is back. Baseball is the intellectual sport. It’s all about the mind game between the pitcher, hitter, and catcher. Who can out-think the other one? Who’s plan of attack is executed better? Who fell into who’s trap? Everything else is secondary to that one battle. If the defense does their job, you never hear about it. Only the hitters and the pitchers get the coverage, and that’s because their duel is all that matters.
Anyway, our season begins Sunday night against the Yankees. I’ve said before that I hate Sox-Yankees games almost as much as I hate the Yankees, and I still believe that. They’re too long, and they’re too overblown. For a season where every game matters so much, it’s weird to have 18 games mean even more than that. But I’ll still watch. Because my favorite sport is finally back, and that means summer is right around the corner.