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Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Joys of Summer

Ah, the eyes are watering, the nose is congested, and the brain is woozy from antihistamines.  It can all mean only one thing:

Baseball season!

Yes, little darling, it HAS been a long, cold, and lonely winter, but no matter.  The boys of summer are about to take up arms once again.  Tonight, the Braves and Phillies (yawn) launch the season, and tomorrow, at 1:10 eastern time, Johan Santana takes the mound for the Mets, and the real excitement begins.

It never ceases to bewilder longtime friends of the Solipsist.  They have trouble understanding why a witty, sophisticated, urbane and erudite (to say nothing of blindingly handsome) fellow such as he deigns to waste so much mental energy on sports in general and baseball in particular (and the Mets in obsessiveness).  It's a fair question.

Sports first became an interest in the mid-1980s when the Mets featured the likes of Dwight Gooden (before he was "Doc"--and before he was docked by drug use), Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and, of course, everyone's favorite, wearing number one and leading off, Mookie Wilson.  (Yes, yes, Lenny Dykstra, too, but Mookie was the soul!)

In fact, it was in 1985 that the real love affair started.  The Solipsist was experiencing a dreary summer of personal trauma and minor disappointment, and the Mets gave him something to look forward to every day.  Several times a week, after work at a local book and comic emporium, the Solipsist and one or two co-workers would hop on the Number 7 train (since re-christened the "International Express") for the 15 minute trip to Shea Stadium.  In those days, you could get a decent upper-deck seat for $6.00, and a ballpark dinner (two hot dogs, a pretzel, a Coke) for about the same price.

That was a great season.  No, the Mets didn't triumph in the end.  They fell just short of the NL East pennant, edged out by the surprising St. Louis Cardinals (someday the Solipsist will regale you with THAT story).  In its own way, though, that season was even better than 1986--the World Series championship year, forever immortalized in the image of a ground ball skittering through the legs of Bill Buckner.  In '85 the team clawed its way through the summer, never giving up, thrilling the city.  And if you want to know why the Solipsist is a baseball fan, it all comes down to a choice made in April 1985--a choice to hitch one's heart and soul and dreams to a bunch of sweaty guys in polyester costumes.

As a sports fan (as opposed say, to a citizen or a family member), you choose your allegiances.  You follow your team, and they become a part of your life.  An important part.  Because following a sports team allows you to experience all of life's emotions in a smaller and safer place.  There is the joy of winning--ultimately transitory even if you win the World Series--set alongside the more common frustration and despair of losing.  Sports prepare us for the real tragedies we're all going to face.

And if all this sounds a little heavy for someone who claims to be looking forward to the opening pitch, YNSHC apologizes.  But don't worry: He is legitimately happy.  Let's face it: A chance to confront mortality by proxy from the comfort of one's living room is nothing to sniff at (those Solipsistic sniffles are solely attributable to allergies).  And maybe this will be a year where the good guys (the Mets) defy death and live on in the semi-immortality of a championship.  Seriously, who needs organized religion when you have the church of the national pastime?

Play ball!

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