Baseball Toaster Cub Town
One Hundred Twenty-Nine Down, Seven to Go
2005-02-09 08:43
by Derek Smart

As recently as Monday, things were looking up in Chicago and its environs. After a brutal series of days filled with wind and snow, cold and darkness, there was a glorious five day stretch filled with brightness and warmth (at least in a relative sense) that not only melted the winter's accumulated snowfall, but served to thaw this baseball fan's near-frozen heart.

Temperatures rose as the time until men were to meet and play over oceans of grass fell away like a Grizzly's winter fur on a soft, vernal breeze. Walking outside was transformed from an act of necessity to one of pure pleasure. Layers were shed, and as the city's sidewalks filled with those freed from their prisons of goose down, one could smell the hope in the air.

It was early, we knew that, but on these days when by all rights we should still be tightly gripped by the Old Man's frigid fist, it's impossible not to think defiant thoughts of short sleeves and sunglasses. "Spring!" As one mind we transmitted the word, as if the intensity of our combined mental efforts would make what was temporary permanent, bringing the final push that sent the Old Man to his annual grave.

That's gone now. This morning was gloomy and chill, bringing a thin coating of what I'll call "surprise snow" (the laziness of dog owners, once revealed by the thaw, is now concealed by the ensuing dusting: too thin to protect unwary pedestrians, too thick to warn the vigilant). It's like the slamming of opportunity's door, or waking in a hovel from a dream of riches.

It is jarring. Disconcerting. And despite continuing to creep nearer our object of desire - sans thought, sans effort, always moving forward - it seems farther now than ever; the perception of time's passing stretched from inches into feet and feet into fathoms by anticipation and need.

Yet closer still it comes, and thank the Maker for small mercies. One week from today, those men will meet and they will play, and more men will follow upon them. Together, they will signal an end and a beginning, both of them welcome as an old friend. The number today is seven, tomorrow it will be six, and the days will come and go until our long wait is through. It will all be over soon, but how I wish it were sooner!

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