Friday, February 24, 2017

Hope springs eternal.

The Beloved New York Mets' first spring training game is today. Look out!

It's true that the expression

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest.

comes from Alexander Pope, but I would bet more Americans who know that it comes from a poem think it originated with "Casey at the Bat":

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast

In modern parlance, I guess we'd say Ernest Lawrence Thayer was sampling Pope.

I'm not one of these guys who goes insane watching spring training games. I save that for regular season games. I like to have spring training games on when I can, maybe when I'm working, just to see who's new, how the old guys are holding up, and start getting the spark for the coming year. As long as no one gets hurt, there's no pressure, no intensity. It's easy and breezy and something warm to look at if you're still shivering in the cold, as we often are when these games start.

Maybe that's the way sports should always be. Fun, free as a bird. Does it really matter so much to us jamokes on the sofa if one group of guys in one color clothing gets defeated by another group of guys in another color clothing? It's not like we're ceding territory or having our waterways closed off or even losing the Seagrams account. Does it matter?

Part of me knows it doesn't, and part of me knows it does. I keep trying to kick the habit but they keep sucking me back in. In 1997, after post-strike years of shunning, I was washing the dishes and just flicked on the radio to pass the time. Heard about this kid Todd Hundley, who had blossomed into a fan favorite during my three-year hiatus. Within days I was watching games on TV again.

Then, in 2014, following the post-2006 years of misery, when I had many other things on my plate and my baseball interest dwindled to a new nadir, I had a long drive one night and listened to an amazing game between Jake Peavy and this zygote named Jacob deGrom. And I was back again.

I guess I sound like a fair-weather friend, and it's true that baseball has never been a high enough priority for me to be a real die-harder.

The Mets have been fun to watch these last few years, and trust me when I tell you I watched them for a lot of years when they were anything but fun. We hope great things for them, but Mets fans know that if we have one key player he'll get hurt; if we have one prospect just about to go bananas he'll get traded; if we have one more series to win to get over the top the bats will all go cold.

Alexander Pope would have made a great Mets fan.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Mets never are, but always to be blest.

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