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The REAL Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I don’t remember if they still do this, but ESPN used to say that college bowl season is the most wonderful time of the year. I understand that they say this because the bowls take place around the holiday season and the song lends itself to that, but it’d be hard to argue with any sports fan that we are in the real most wonderful time of the year right now. My (and many people’s) favorite weekend of the college basketball season is almost upon as we have the round of 64 in the NCAA tournament followed by the round of 32*. The NBA playoffs are coming up soon, which means that league will be watchable in relatively short order. And, of course, the most important development of the next few weeks is Opening Day.

*I understand that they wanted to expand the tournament. I get why they did it and everything. What I don’t get is how they did it. They added three teams to the mix after psyching people out by showing them what it would like with 96 teams. Then, they made it so the play-in games are not all the same seed. How is that fair? It just seems silly. Plus, I really don’t like that they’re calling the Thursday/Friday games the second round. Can a round really consist of just four games over two days when 48 games will be played over the weekend?

There is no other sport like baseball in its celebration of the first game of the season. The NFL has tried to make their first game an event by putting it on a Thursday night and having it involve the previous year’s champion, but they have not succeeded in making it holiday level. Part of it, I believe, is that Opening Day is often during the week of baseball, so fans look at it as an opportunity to take a day off work and go catch their favorite team who they haven’t seen in six months. I’m not going to get into the reasons why I think baseball is better than football (though I do, and I’m a big football fan), but I can safely say that there is no greater game to watch in person than a baseball game.

I’m lucky enough that I get to resume my tradition of attending Opening Day after taking an unplanned year off from the national holiday, so I’m pretty excited about that. It’s funny because I look at this Royals team that will take the field in 2011, and I know deep down that they’re going to struggle. I’ve said before that I think they’ll be better than many of the predictions and I maintain that, but they’re still a lot of flukes away from actually being good. Yet, here I sit on March 15, just 16 days away from Opening Day, and I’m so incredibly excited about seeing the new guys in action. The inner Posnanski comes out inside me this time of year, and I start to think – why not?

Many of you in Kansas City remember the column that Joe Posnanski wrote every year about how this was the Royals year and he listed the reasons why. I remember that I tried that column on a much smaller scale with my high school sports section. See, this optimism is what is so great about baseball. People talk about how every team has a chance in the NFL, which is true based on the most recent rules that have caused a lockout. You just don’t get the sense of optimism, though, from NFL fans prior to the season. Joe Posnanski didn’t write a column every year about how this was the one the Chiefs would be able to do it. Baseball just lends itself to optimism more than any other sport.

You sit around and you start to think that maybe this is the year that Alex Gordon, with his revamped swing, breaks out and actually dominates. You start to think that maybe Billy Butler can grow into the 30 home run, 40 double monster that everybody sees in him. You think that maybe Luke Hochevar can harness everything and become at least a number two starter. The thing is that these images, which may seem terribly silly by mid-May, don’t look so silly right now. It helps on the Gordon front that he is absolutely destroying the ball in Surprise, but you think back to the times these players have been great. Butler is obviously the best of the three, so if he doesn’t reach the 30/40 plateau it’s not as detrimental to the team. Gordon and Hochevar, though, have both shown flashes of brilliance on the baseball field, and those are the moments that stick out in your head in mid-March.

For me, this is the time of the year that is toughest in terms of waiting for baseball. We’re so close to the season starting. In my mind, I know that I’ve been waiting since early October for the Royals to come back, but I still feel like I can barely make it through the next two weeks. I can’t wait for the moment that I get to walk into Kauffman Stadium for the first time in 2011, get a way overpriced hot dog and watch the beginning of what I see in my head as a great surprise season. Yeah, maybe that dream will be dashed quickly, but to be a fan of a team like the Royals, you have to have some optimism. The whole world is optimistic about the Royals from 2012 on, so I just figured I’d get a jump start on them.

  1. March 15, 2011 at 10:30 am

    overpriced hot dog? The K still has some of the cheapest concessions and beer in the nation! I will proudly be there on Opening Day. I predict a win as well.

  2. Joe
    March 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Ian, while the prices at the K may be the cheapest among MLB parks, hot dogs and other ballpark “delicacies” are still overpriced.

    David, do you remember George Carlin’s comparison of baseball to football? I think it is a perfect comparison. Is there be a way you might be able to show us a link to that for all to ponder?

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