By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) It’s just not fair. Sports doesn’t owe me a darn thing other than putting players on a court, a rink or a field who will give their very best effort with a coach that will bring forth his or her best chess mind to win games. That is it, despite what your average radio caller or message board general manager will vomit into the conversation.
No team or player bears the responsibility for my emotions. I’m sure they’d all prefer to get me all hot and bothered for them, but at the end of the day it’s not their problem whether or not my loins were sufficiently girded before or during.
Still, it shouldn’t be like this. Call it ennui. Call it apathy. Call it caring that I don’t really seem to care about Chicago baseball right now. And that really sucks.
I enjoy baseball. That innate desire for spring in what seems to be an eternal winter here in a city where 15 degrees or 95 degrees can stop on a dime and pivot the other way is still inside me. Baseball represents rebirth, sporting anew, athletic Auld Lang Syne. There is a beauty to it that ranges from baroque to abstract. Noticing and feeling that will never change in me. Or at least I hope it won’t.
Because I never thought I wouldn’t be excited for baseball specifically in this town. I mean, this is Chicago, and save for 2005, we’ve sort of come to expect lying to ourselves every February-turned-March-turned-April-turned-reality. Even my fan education by fire, of being an abused Cubbie kid, never dissolved an annual feeling of hope even when 99 percent of my brain and heart and soul knew it was futile. Even when 1998 and 2003 and 2007 and 2008 kicked me in the crotch, I came willfully back because my favorite team didn’t mean to hurt me.
Just as the two teams here in 2014 don’t mean to instill in me a void this sort-of-spring. Maybe the snow on top of snow with a side of snow that broke my citizen spirit these past few months embittered me to the thaw. Maybe I’ve just lost the ability to sit back and enjoy the ride of baseball — because even bad baseball is still better than no baseball — and am thinking too much. Maybe I’m looking too much at the reality that the Cubs will contend for last in the National League and the White Sox will, at best, provide the apathy that comes with being average.
“We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that the savage has, because we know how it is made,” Mark Twain once said. “We have lost as much as we gained by prying into that matter.”
He’s right, but he’s wrong. Baseball can be as beautiful as a rainbow, but first there must be rain. I guess it’s raining right now in this splinter between the Chicago seasons of winter and construction. We keep hearing about the Cubs’ 2015 rainbow courtesy of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer now possibly being rescheduled for 2016. There is a break in the White Sox clouds in the distance thanks to a seemingly great jigsaw man in Rick Hahn, but my depth perception fails me at the moment.
I want to observe Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu and what hopefully will be blossoming stars. I want to see Chris Sale dominate and his shoulder or elbow or entire Fruit Roll-Up of a torso not rip in half. I want to see if Robin Ventura starts to gravitate away from the Old School and more toward Hahnian strategy.
I pine for the arrivals of Javy Baez and Kris Bryant. I hold out a parental sort of reservation that delinquent children Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro can make me proud. I’m curious to see what makes Rick Renteria different from Dale Sveum and when Google will figure out such a difference.
But that’s all I got. I don’t exactly deserve more, but it’s disconcerting to walk into April knowing it is already going to be the cruelest month until May and until June and so on. I want a little bit more than a bridge to football season, and I don’t like being the grouchy troll under that bridge right now.
Questions, curiosities and still a kinship with nine guys running onto the grass and dirt — I still have those things. But what used to be the warm and fuzzies is this year hard and cold. I don’t like it. Self-awareness in place of blind optimism doesn’t feel good, and baseball is supposed to be where we all feel good.
Marvin Cohen wrote in Baseball the Beautiful that “it’s symmetrical, fair, and dignified. There’s no debating what happened: it happened.”
It just feels like what is going to happen this season in this city will still be in a weird way beautiful, but it does not feel all that fair.
You can follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe.