I am not a nut-job crazy sports fan. Despite the fact that I am often wearing a Pirates shirt, or some other bit of team gear; I’m really not a crazy fan. I played very little in the way of organized sports while growing up. Actually, I didn’t do much of anything that would be filed under the word ‘organized’ while growing up. I was a bit of a random agent. Imagine that. On the other hand, you can NOT grow up in Pittsburgh and NOT be a sports fan. Maybe it’s possible. Maybe there’s one guy, but he is made to regret that choice every time he steps into a bar.
“You grew up in Pittsburgh? Wow, you must still be a Steelers fan.”
“No, I never paid much attention to sports.”
“Really…um, Okaaayyy then. How about those crazy Republicans?”
In some ways, my attachment to Pittsburgh compensates, or rather offsets my somewhat below average interest in and knowledge of sports. I live in New England but I know very little about the local teams. When asked how I think so and so is going to do, I say that I’m not familiar because I follow the <insert Pittsburgh team here>. That usually works. Unless. On occasion, I meet the one-sport-wonder or the knows-everything-about-everything fan who knows more about my teams than I do. Then I have to fess up. I have to admit that “I follow my teams, but not that closely.”
Anyway, if I can wander back to the point, yesterday was Opening Day for Major League Baseball. It was also Easter for some folks.
Easter – Opening Day.
God – baseball.
I’m not going there. The good news for me is that the Pirates play their first game today, Monday. That’s easy. Nothing else is happening today. Oh, it is my mother’s birthday. She is going to be 90, but it’s not like she lives next door. She lives halfway across the country. I sent her a card and a present. I talked to her, she liked the present. Besides, she knows where she ranks when it comes to stuff like this.
She drew the short straw against sports in our house all the time. If the movie she wanted to watch was on opposite a football game, she was going to miss that movie (only one TV, no VCR/DVR back then). If her favorite show was on opposite the Pirates, sorry, but the game is on. If the game wasn’t on television, she could watch her show but she would have to listen to Bob Prince, radio announcer for KDKA, blaring in the background from my father’s transistor radio.
The last time I remember the Opening Day vs. mom’s birthday conflict was in 1971. I was a junior in high school. I was going to the game with some friends. We were going to cut out of school and drive into Pittsburgh. My father knew about this plan. He was providing the tickets though one of those “I know a guy” connections of his. My mother had not been brought into the loop. Over the weekend, my mother asked if I remembered what day Tuesday was. “It’s Opening Day! Oh, yeah, and that other thing.” I don’t remember if she was comforted or not by the fact that it was a day game, so my dad could take her out to dinner – without the radio.
I still like Opening Day. Early April is a dark time in sports. College basketball is usually over for my teams. College and NFL football are a long way away. The NFL Draft is coming up, but that’s not a sport or even an event in my mind. The draft is merely an attempt by the NFL to make more TV money while pretending that the sport can be relevant in the offseason. Give it up wealthy owners, your time starts in September. Hockey is still going strong but I’ve lost interest. I like hockey a little, but I want it and the winter it is associated with to be over now. People weren’t supposed to be skating in April.
April is baseball’s time and it brings with it a bright outlook. It’s spring. There’s hope. Anyone can win it all at this point. We can buy gear. Wear gear. Watch, follow, listen and talk. As the song goes:
“…there’s new grass on the field…put me in coach.”
We don’t have an MLB team in Connecticut and going to see either the Red Sox or the Yankees involves a long drive and a lot of money. On the other hand, Hartford is about to get a Double-A team. In 2016, the New Britain Rock Cats will move up the road to the Capitol and rebrand themselves as the Hartford Yard Goats.
Not making that up.
The reference, in case you’re etymologically challenged, is to Hartford’s rich railroad history. A Yard Goat is the-little-engine-that-could that moved cars around in the freight yard. I’m not sure where that freight yard was, maybe it’s the one north of the city. I only know that Hartford’s Union station has precisely two tracks and I think one is closed.
It might be a dumb name, but I’m sure it will have a cool logo and I’m sure that I’ll buy a cap. It’s a team.
A home team.
I’ll go to see a couple of games every season. I’ll meet my buddy John. We’ll walk over to the stadium, chow down a few dogs and a beer and watch some baseball. Hmm, about the logo, I guess it remains to be seen whether it’s a train or a goat.
Happy birthday, Mom – now, let’s play ball!