By Mark Paulette
Prov. People will continue to hope even though they have evidence that things cannot possibly turn out the way they want.
Far from the 13-foot snow banks, which line the streets of Bangor, Maine, and out of the reach of the impending 6-to-12 inches that are supposed to cover whatever bare ground remains, pitchers and catchers have reported. Winter Spring Training is coming.
When Alexander Pope first coined the aforementioned term in 1723, it is unlikely he did so in reference to the game of ‘Base-ball’ which would officially be incorporated some 140 years later. Though it was first noted and even included in dictionaries as early as the 1760’s, (it’s true, look it up). But who knows? Maybe the dude was more than just a cool name.
So why do I propose such wild conjecture that it is so unbelievably false that it’s on par with one believing that a PSI or two could actively play a part in a decisive 38-point victory or more unjustly taint a reign so unmatched that witchcraft, wizardry and deception are the only plausible reasons for its being? Oh jeez, everything just went white. Deep breaths and back to the argument at hand.
I draw the parallels because no sport has the ability to inspire hope like that which baseball can. Not even football, where we just saw the literal impossible happen in Super Bowl 51. (99.8 percent to be exact, that was the probability of a Falcons victory with roughly 22 minutes of game-clock left.) But somehow the Pats came back and they continued to hope even though there was a near century’s-worth of evidence that things could not possibly turn out the way they wanted.
But baseball is the common person’s game. You need not be 6’6” to compete, nor 255lbs with 3-percent body fat, and you don’t have to be the divine figure of Tom Brady to inspire hope. Guys like Dustin Pedroia and Jose Altuve can stand toe to toe with anyone. On a nightly basis the best teams can be rendered worthless by some re-invented insurance salesman who figured out how to dig his nails into a ball and make it flutter to the plate at a speed relevant with a decent 8th grade hurler.
It’s a game dominated by physics, but even more so by luck, which brings a mystical element into play. Attempting to hit a sphere that’s traveling 95 miles per hour with a round bat all the while having four-tenths of a second to decide whether to swing or not is the perfect marriage of science and the unexplained. One-centimeter means the difference between a 30-foot pop up and a 400-foot homerun, and that may even be too generous of a measurement.
The unknown is around every turn, laced in every pitch thrown. This makes it possible and quite convincing to continue to hope even against evidence suggesting otherwise. There’s no time-limit and the season is played night in, night out over the course of six months, providing for an incalculable amount of scenarios to unfold. All which give reason for precious, undying hope.
Right now, that hope is resonating throughout 30 fan bases. It’s starting as a slow simmer, which over the next 46 days will boil into a fervor as we approach 2017’s first pitch. For teams like Tampa Bay, Milwaukee or Oakland, it is probably just that, a faint glimmer of unsullied hope. But for our beloved Boston Red Sox, we in the nation have every right to hope for our wildest dreams.
Sure, there’s no Papi…yet (no, he’s not coming back. Much like the big fella’, I just like to tease). But there is 8/9’s of a lineup that wreaked havoc on American League pitchers a year ago and has added a bulkier Andrew Benintendi, who many see fit for a Mookie-esque leap in productivity. The rotation includes last year’s Cy Young winner, a former Cy Young winner and some guy named Chris Sale; I heard he was supposed to be serviceable. Not to mention a pair of All Stars and the organization’s best pitching prospect to come along since a grease-less, Clay Buchholz in ’07. The ‘pen is stacked, truly. Flex relievers, All Stars, guys who put up sub-3 ERA’s with ease, this team (at least on paper) has it all. If you want a weakness, you can look to the pine, but even there rests a reigning Gold Glover in Mitch Moreland and Superman reincarnated, Brock Holt.
So forgive me if I sound unabashedly optimistic. But as the great Mr. Pope once said; “That’s just human nature.”(And Pope hadn’t even seen this roster when he said that.) So as we all turn to baseball for a much needed distraction from all this white stuff around us, make sure to remember the excitement you now feel. Chances are (at least if you’re like any of my co-workers) you’ll need to harken back to these feelings when the Sox drop a mid-week series in June and you’re calling for John Farrell’s head to be escorted from Fenway on a silver platter. Just remember, no matter how trying the times may get this year, when it comes to this sport, hope springs eternal.
Mark Paulette is the Senior Producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.