Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
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All Hail February!
by Derek Smart
I hate waiting.
I'm wired for impatience, and when there's something I'm looking forward to - I mean, really looking forward to - you can bet that it'll be the background noise for my day, nearly every moment at least partially devoted to whatever happens to be the current object of my obsession ("No! Really?" you say, "A gentleman who spends an inordinate amount of his personal time writing about his favorite baseball team for no worldly compensation has a touch of the idée fixe? Pshaw!").
Here's an illustration: when I've made an online purchase, something that I've had my eye on for a while, once I've learned that it's shipped I'm unable to keep myself from repeatedly pasting the tracking number into the shipper's tracking system multiple times a day, at least hourly, hoping to learn that the item has made some sort of progress. And that, sadly, is me exercising restraint.
And it's not just the act of checking up, it's the ceaseless thoughts, and the work - oh, the work! - in keeping myself from checking and checking and checking again. "I'll only check once an hour," I'll tell myself, but rather than fully focusing on something else for that hour, some part of me is always looking at the clock. "Can I check yet? No? Crap!................How about now?"
I could alternately describe it as a chronic brain itch. An unremitting irritant that works to diffuse my every thought and deed, so that the struggle isn't just to keep from engaging in repetitive, fruitless action, but to simply gain a foothold in the world outside of this drive for resolution, to summon enough concentration to function above the level of a cat with his nip.
I despise being in that state. It is relentless static as I strive to function, and not in a "white noise" kind of way. It's more like getting a horrible song stuck in your head (which I have an issue with too, particularly now that there's a fairly constant flow of toddler music in my home. "Hakuna Matata," anyone?), but rather than doing the sane thing and working to be rid of it, you keep playing it over and over again in the vain hope that this time - Finally! This time! - it will transform into that thing you always hoped it would be.
This behavior pattern extends easily into the baseball world, and it's at its absolute worst in the months immediately following the season's conclusion when the possibility of deals and trades is as pervasive as the air. You can smell the possibilities, and it's often too much for me to take. To say that I slip into a state of near catatonia would be only the slightest of exaggerations.
I suppose if one were bent on spinning this positively a case could be made that there's a certain charming optimism involved, that what the minute to minute refreshing of various internet baseball sites declares is not your clear lack of self-control, but rather an undying enthusiasm and hopefulness. After all, when one clicks on that button, isn't it fair to say that there is at least a small degree of hope, of faith, that this time it will be different?
If there's a throughline for the things that really drive me to distraction, it's that their date of resolution is an open question. I can't know exactly when the package will arrive or when a big deal will go down, but I have a compelling need to find out at the earliest moment possible. I don't know why it should make a difference if I learn of the Jacque Jones signing at 6:30 rather than 8:30, but for some reason it does.
Which is a large reason why I'm so happy the calendar has turned to February. Pitchers and catchers will report to Mesa two weeks from today, and they'll begin working out two weeks from tomorrow. Finally, there is a solid date within reach, an immutable, scheduled time that I can look forward to, rather than an indeterminate point of dubious satisfaction.
It is a time when, at last, the scales of my mental health are tipped back toward a degree of sanity. It's the official beginning of Spring, as far as I'm concerned, and while it's also the onset of nearly two months of pure anticipation, it's a far more pleasant period, if only because it's strictly defined.
So here's to you, February! Harbinger of Spring, bringer of Rationality! You are the glimmer of hope so long absent from our dark, winter days, and you've come not a moment too soon. Thank you so much for finally arriving, and if it's not too much trouble, see if April can't hurry along.