Monday, March 31, 2014

It's Opening Day and Optimism Rules - For Now

This column originally appeared on the front page of the Sun Chronicle on Monday, March 31, 2014.

By Bill Gouveia

            I am a fan of all sports, but always come back to baseball as my favorite.  I’m not exactly sure why, but the Grand Old Game and our local franchise has a hold on me that simply can’t be broken.

            Today is Opening Day for the Red Sox.  That’s the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, thank you very much.  The team I have followed since I was old enough to turn on a radio.  The institution I have loved through times both happy and sad (mostly sad) for over a half a century now.  You would think I’d be an old hand at this.

            But Opening Day still makes me a little bit giddy, even if it isn’t being played at home in Fenway Park.  I still hopped out of bed (well, perhaps “hopped” is a slight exaggeration these days) with a little extra spring in my step this morning.  The sun seems a little brighter, the air a little crisper, and everyone’s mood just a little happier.

            All because baseball is back.

            I love football and the Patriots, having been a season ticket-holder for more than four decades.  I have always been a huge Celtic fan, this year notwithstanding.  And I grew up watching the Bruins, renewing that loyalty over the last decade or so.

            But the Red Sox are an experience in and of themselves.  The world in these parts revolves around when the truck leaves for spring training and when the playoffs start in October.  Wedding are planned around off-days and road trips.  Yankee games are practically holidays.

            In my mind baseball is still the national pastime, despite the best efforts of the NFL.  But baseball in New England is unlike baseball almost anywhere else.  Few fans live and die with their team the way Red Sox fans do, and whether you consider that good or bad – it is an interesting phenomenon. 

            If the Red Sox win against the Orioles in Baltimore today, life will be wonderful.  Optimism will rule, and the sky will be the limit.  World Series plans will be made, talk of a dynasty will fill the sports radio airwaves, and the recent contract given David Ortiz will be called a steal for the team.

            Of course, should they happen to lose the opener today, things will be slightly different.  The season will be in ruins, the playoffs nearly out of reach, and talk radio will be dominated by chatter concerning the mistake they made signing Ortiz and exactly when John Farrell should be fired as manager.

            But this morning, it’s Opening Day.  The season is starting and life is beginning anew.  This is one of those times when the Red Sox have a virtual pass from fans, considering their unexpected World Series win last October.  They earned enough good will to get them through the entire year.

            Unless they start losing, of course.  Then it might only last three months.  Or maybe three weeks.  If they get swept in Baltimore, the honeymoon could be over before they even get home. 

            But for now, hope spring eternal.  The Sox enter the game today undefeated.  And it is springtime, when in the words of a long-retired Boston sportswriter, “A young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of glove…”

            So I will have my iPad next to my computer monitor at work today, watching the game while trying to look like I’m not.  I will be looking to establish the relationship every true fan has to seek out with the new roster of players each season.  I will be watching to see how the pitching staff looks, and whether the team has improved defensively.

            I’ll study Grady Sizemore, the great story of this year’s spring training.  After not playing baseball for almost two years, Sizemore won the starting centerfield position and is an inspiring story.  But mostly, I’ll be celebrating the true sign of the changing of the seasons.

            Today is Opening Day, and there is nothing better to rejuvenate the spirit and head us towards summer.  Baseball is a great game, and this will be another terrific season for the Red Sox.

            Unless they lose today, of course.  Then it’s time to move on to football season.  It’s not easy being a Boston fan.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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