Saturday, October 29, 2011

No Game Today

To my mindset, one of the saddest moments I encounter each year is in those couple of hours after the World Series comes to an end.
As the Hawk would say, the 2011 season is "ovah."

For it is then that I realize that the baseball season is “ovah,” and that Saturday is the beginning of a slightly-longer than three-month countdown until spring training starts for 2012, and nearly four months until anything resembling a ballgame is played.

REGARDLESS OF WHO actually wins the World Series title and gets bragging rights for U.S. baseball, there is that moment that makes me feel empty inside. Because there literally is “No Game Today” – the sign that used to hang on stadiums to inform fans passing by that there was no reason to stop off on that day.

We’re just a couple of days away from Halloween, which means the meat of the year is complete. Now, we’re in the home stretch – Frank Sinatra’s record album “September of my Years” comes to mind, even though we’re approaching November.

I am a fan of professional baseball, and the idea that there isn’t a game on that I can watch for an athletic fix is one that can be depressing if I linger on it for too long.

Yes, it is true that the professional leagues in countries such as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, along with the Liga del Pacifico in Mexico are up and running (their seasons began about two weeks ago).

SO I CAN always scour up a box score of a ballgame somewhere. Will Mexicali manage to keep the early lead in the standings they jumped out to in the Mexican Pacific League?

Is there some potential prospect playing this winter who will manage to make an impact on a major league club similar to what White Sox outfielder Alejandro de Aza did this season after playing last winter in the Dominican Republic?

Such speculation is intriguing. And on those rare occasions when a winter league ballgame gets broadcast, I likely will make an effort to try to watch it – regardless of which league it is or which teams are playing.

But it’s not the same. I can’t just jump on a flight to Caracas at a moment’s notice or see a game by the La Guaira Sharks (los Tiburones are Ozzie Guillen’s preferred Venezuelan ballclub).

ALTHOUGH PERHAPS I should point out that one of my ideas of a fantasy vacation would be to visit either Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic or Venezuela during the first week in February when one of those places is hosting the Caribbean Series – which is the championship for, and bragging rights of, Latin American baseball. I’d like to see the spectacle at least once in my lifetime.

But it still falls short of having the option of watching the game on my home turf.

For me, it’s something about the battle of wits that takes place every time a pitcher and batter face off against each other. The “head game,” as it was once referred to by longtime sportswriter Roger Kahn – who used the phrase as the title of a book he wrote about pitchers.

No other sport has anything quite like it, which is why I don’t want to hear from any sports fans who will claim that we can now focus our attention on football or college basketball or hockey or any other game.

TO THE DEGREE that I follow ANY sports during the winter, it will be to check out the standings of my own collegiate alma mater’s athletic teams (I may wind up being one of the visiting team basketball fans in the stands when Illinois Wesleyan University visits Hyde Park and the University of Chicago on Dec. 10), along with the box scores emanating from teams like the Caneros de Los Mochis or the Senadores de San Juan.

Because now that the World Series is over, that’s what I have left.

As for the series itself, I must confess to not watching any one of the games in their entirety. I did catch the moment when Albert Pujols hit the second of his three home runs in Game Three (and share the disgust of the sportswriter who dinged the Texas Rangers fan who showed her Chicago Cubbiness tendencies by throwing back the ball that was Home Run number Three).

The only Chicago World Series in my lifetime
And I was amused by all the rhetoric following Game Five that questioned how incompetent St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa could be. At least until Game Six, where all the chatter now claims the only person more worthless than LaRussa is Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington.

ALTHOUGH I’M NOT sure Game Six is as great a sporting moment as some people want to think. I see it as a blown ballgame by the Rangers. Their incompetence, rather than anything great (despite an extra-inning home run by eventual World Series MVP David Freese) by St. Louis.

I suppose I’ll wish well upon those fans of the World Series champion Cardinals. But my overall emotion right now is closer to a funk over the fact that there’s “No Game Today.”

Only124 more days until the beginning of Cactus League play. I’ll be counting each and every one of them down.


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