By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
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.
We’re all undefeated, we 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 the Red Sox might win it, so let’s start to play!
And that is the magic of Opening Day.
I trot out that Opening Day poem every year. It’s about renewal, and hope, and
asperations, and dreams. Then, of course reality sets in. For the Red Sox, reality didn’t
rear its ugly head until the eighth inning of Opening Day, when they surprised the
immortal Tampa Bay Rays with a gift win. Relief pitchers issued four bases on balls in
the disasterous eighth and every one of them scored. And you know whose fault it was, at
least according to some of my friends who have already jumped off the bandwagon even
as it was just leaving the station? The manager. Who else?
Welcome to Boston, Alex. Around here It’s always the manager’s fault. There are
probably some guys around town who are blaming this one on John Farrell. They got so
used to second-guessing everything he did that they just can’t stop themselves.
Boston is the second-guessing capitol of the baseball world. Perhaps we should have
begun our Opening Day Musing with another verse:
There’s this about baseball that’s truly a blessing:
It’s a barrel of fun if you like second-guessing.
You can sit in the stands or at home in a chair
Manager bashing, lambasting a player.
You can pick apart lineups, critique every switch,
“Send up a pinch hitter.” ”Don’t let that bum pitch.”
“Hold up the runner.” “Send him in to score.”
“That guy took strike three.” “He just swung at ball four.”
“Get rid of that turkey.” “We need a new bat.”
“Please tell me why we can’t get guys like that.”
“The umpire’s blind, he just called that a strike.”
“Ketchup on hot dogs, now that I don’t like.”
No one pays attention, but nevertheless
There’s nothing in baseball you can’t second-guess.
But I’m telling you this, and I’ll say it out flat;
It’s the best game of all. Now second guess that!
I am personally still on the Red Sox bandwagon, although it is true that I had to kept
away from sharp objects for several hours after that first game. We long-time Red Sox
fans have seen worse than this (Hello Bill Buckner, and Bucky (Bleepin’) Dent, and
Denny Galehouse, and Harry Frazee). As we groggily pick ourselves off the canvas we
shake our fists at the fates and say, “Is that your best shot? I dare you to hit me again.”
Unfortunately, the fates will oblige and we get hit with haymakers again, and again.
As the estimable Marty Nolan, who was one of the brightest lights during the glory days
of the Boston Globe, famously said of the Red Sox after the ball went through Buckner’s
legs in the ’86 World Serries, “The bastards killed my father and now they’re coming
Former baseball commissioner Bart Giammatti, a smart guy, said of the game, “It breaaks
your heart. It was designed to break your heart.” It is no surprise that Mr. Giammatti
grew up as a devout Red Sox fan.
As a result of the season opener at Tampa Bay (which herein after will be referred to as
“the recent unpleasantness”) I am officially lowering my prediction of 97 Red Sox
victories in 2018 to 96. We’ll still win the American League East, just expect a few
bumps along the way.
I know, I know, maybe I’m just a cock-eyed optimist, always looking on the bright side,
no matter how well hidden from view it may be. Then again, maybe, after all these years,
I’m just punch-drunk.