Sunday, March 31, 2013

Absolution and Youthfulness: The Rites of Opening Day

There are simple human themes that weave their way in and out of our everyday. Familiar themes, entangling us as individuals to our societies, the world around us, and the core emotional reservoir that makes up the human experience. These can be, but never limited to: love and loss, joy and pain, pride and hopelessness, and surely every notch in between.

Yet in the elder days of winter, the constant theme is rebirth. Trees sprout leaves, flowers bud, and grass greens seemingly out of nothing. The layers of clothing we have been forced to wear to endure another harsh season begin to find their way to boxes and closet shelves and basements. This is exemplified by the countless multitude of t-shirts seen by the overzealous youth in the presence of fifty degree weather. They, as we all do, want to feel alive again. The sun on our skin; our lungs, breathing a warm swell of independence from the tyranny of winter. Whether it is spoken or not, we begin to pardon the Earth for the suffering, and we desire more time spent together, away from the confines of our warm dwellings.

Such is Opening Day.

Only one team ever wins the last game of the season. Only one fan base knows the unbridled joy of victory each October. Yet for the rest of us, the sun races West earlier every day, and the subtle content of failure sets in for a hibernation within the baseball fan subconscious. This, of course, is ultimately uprooted come February, when team workouts begin. Suddenly there is this sense of hope. Not necessarily hope that our club will ultimately win this year, but the fact that there will be a year, a season, at all. In the coldest, darkest reaches of winter, the memories of summer cannot seem at any greater distance. Sometimes it seems as if it will never be warm again. Of course, this is a great overreaction. Summer, as with baseball, will come.

Baseball is a unique game. Stretching six months from spring to autumn, a story arc develops. Heroes rise and fall and villains are formed from decades-old rivalries. Yet in the quiet, dawn-stretching spring, the season is merely a book wit a virgin binding. No plots can be predicted, just as Cinderella knew not of her glass slipper and pumpkin car. No twists, tragedies, or triumphs can be foreseen or avoided.

And it is these failures and falterings that we absolve every year without fail. Just as a child, who months earlier could not wait to see the end of the school year, eagerly anticipates the first day of class. We forgive the year's past transgressions, and with a youthful glee, breathe a warm swell of dawn's early light. Last year is over. Everyone is in first.

Every season ends, and inevitably, most will be hurt. This is the cost of devotion. Yet every season begins. Inevitably, we fall in love once more. In the coming six months we will feel joy and pain, glory and anguish, and have our hearts placed delicately in a vice for a game that never asks for a love so unwavering. This is the rite of devotion.

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