Baseball’s AWelcome DiversionIn These Woeful Times
Millions of baseball fans, including myself, are excited that the new season got underway this week.
The most significant personal reason is the New York Yankees. I’ve been a diehard Yankee fan through the championship, as well as the lean, years. Once again, they have a solid group of talented players, not to mention the highest payroll in the major leagues that exceeds the closest rival by some $25 million, who many predict will add another crown to the team’s distinguished history. In spite of that, as was evident in last year’s World Series in which the Yankees did not compete for only the second time in six years, high-salaried teams don’t always have post-season success or sometimes even participate (i.e., 2002’s New York Mets).
After only a few games, there is a bit of sadness in Yankeeland. All-Star shortstop Derek Jeter was injured in the third inning of Monday night’s opening game victory. Without Jeter, and ace reliever Mariano Rivera, who began the season on the disabled list, the Yankees still have plenty of talent and depth to win it all. Nonetheless, Jeter is a spark that ignites rallies on the field and a team leader whose absence will leave a void in the dugout and in the clubhouse.
Another reason I’m glad the 2003 baseball season has begun is that I’ll have the chance to see every game on television! That was not the case last year when, for the first time in my life I only saw a few televised games because two stubborn telecommunications companies butted heads.
But, minutes before leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano stepped to the plate to begin the Yankees’ season in Toronto on Monday, technicians hit a switch that sent out the YES Network’s signal to hundreds of thousands of ecstatic Yankee fans in Brooklyn and the Bronx who were virtually blacked out last year.
New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer negotiated a deal allowing Yankee games to be telecast on Cablevision for the first time in 17 months. It’s been a roller coaster ride for the last month. There was no deal on March 1. Then, two weeks ago a deal was struck, but it fell apart a few days before the season began. Cablevision and YES finally reached a working settlement this week giving thousands of devoted Yankee fans in Brooklyn and the Bronx the opportunity to watch their team without having to purchase a satellite or other extraneous electronic equipment.
The 2003 season began as scheduled Sunday night. I’m relieved baseball officials decided not to delay or cancel any games due to the ongoing war half a world away. 24/7 media coverage allows anyone at any minute to see what’s going on over there. Meanwhile, over here, there’s an enormous need to maintain daily routines, especially for youngsters. For some, baseball is a part of their lives because of their love for the sport. For others, especially at this period in history, baseball serves as a welcome diversion to woeful world events for a few hours a day, several times a week.
For decades, baseball games traditionally started following the singing of the national anthem, which some fans ignore while some prematurely applaud before the final note. However, ever since September 11, 2001, the patriotic wave that has swept the nation has been evident at each and every baseball game, which now devotes the customary seventh inning stretch to singing "God Bless America." That ritual resumes this season as mandated by baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
As a result, in the midst of taking pleasure in America’s favorite pastime, fans can show their genuine concern for the courageous men and women in harm’s way overseas.