By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
OPENING DAY BLUES
The long barren winter casts a dark pall
Till one day an umpire hollers, “Play ball!”
Then skies start to brighten, blue displaces gray.
Baseball springs eternal. It’s Opening Day.
The birds begin singing. The trees start to bloom.
The umpire’s dusting home plate with his broom.
No one’s thrown a pitch yet, or safely reached base,
But everyone’s team’s in a tie for first place.
They’re all undefeated, they all have a chance.
We all dream of doing a World Series dance.
The setbacks will surface, the losses, the gloom.
Each team except one is destined for doom.
But our guys might win it, so let’s start to play.
And that is the magic of Opening Day.
Reprinted from Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses, with permission from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
You wouldn’t think that little verse, a paean to the virtues of Opening Day of the baseball season, would be the root cause of much distress, would you? Neither would I - until two years ago.
The verse is only appropriate for one day a year, so I’ve never really memorized it the way I have for some other verses that I recite on a more regular basis. But I do trot it out for Opening Day, and that’s what I did for the Red Sox home opener on April 12, 2015. The Red Sox held their annual reception for various bigwigs and bigwig wannabes, and, though I didn’t have the poem memorized down flat, I strolled around from group to group reciting it, whether people wanted to hear it or not (For the most part they seemed to tolerate me).
Someone in a position of influence must have thought it had some merit because after the reception I got a call to show up at the NESN booth in the top of the third inning to do the verse for Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy. Oh goody, I thought, I’ll get to do it on TV. I heard a little voice inside me say that it would be a good idea to write the words down in case I drew a blank on them during the telecast. Nah, I said to the little voice. I’ve already done it several times at the reception. What could possibly go wrong?
Lots, as I would soon discover.
Fast forward to the top of the third. I’m in the booth with Don and Jerry. Don leads into the verse and I launch into my recitation. Halfway through the batter for the Washington Nationals hits a routine grounder to second and Pedroia makes the easy throw to first for the out.
As I watched the play unfold the verse, which I never did really have down pat, went completely out of my head. It wasn’t just a case of going up on a single word; I’d lost my concentration, and the whole thing was gone. I stopped and said, “Whatever.” A master of the pithy as lib, wouldn’t you say?
I felt like one of the Flying Wallendas. You know, that family of tightrope walkers who defied death by doing their act outdoors - between skyscrapers? Like most of the Wallendas, I ended up in a bloody heap on the sidewalk.
The next day Toucher and Rich, the morning guys on radio’s The Sports Hub, had great fun at my expense (you can hear how it played out on the internet), and with good reason. If I had paid attention to that little voice inside me that said, “Write down the words,” I’d have been all right. But no, now I was fodder for a whole segment on Toucher and Rich, and I deserved it.
Later in the program they announced that “Dick Flavin” was on the phone to protest their treatment of him (me). This got my attention because to the best of my knowledge I was not holding a telephone in my hand. I think I was holding a cup of hemlock. The guy was angry at Toucher and Rich, but he didn’t mount much of a defense on my behalf, probably because there was not one to be had. But I am here to testify that that guy on the phone was not Dick Flavin. Here’s what puzzles me though; why, after the day that I’d just had, would anyone want to be?