Later this afternoon, when the Jets and Bengals face off in Cincinnati, this baseball fan will be reminded how we are so close and yet so far to the start of Spring Training. Of course, a brisk walk around the city in these sub-freezing temperatures would accomplish the same thing, but the NFL playoffs are a more visual reminder.
For sports fans, the year is divided into different leagues and games. For me, the year starts in April when Opening Day arrives. Already, my interest in the immediacy of the baseball through Spring Training roster battles, and when April rolls around, despite the ongoing hockey and basketball seasons, I’m ready for seven months of bliss. After baseball season ends, football takes as much of center stage as it can. I enjoy watching the games but find it hard to root too hard for anyone.
As football plows onward, Sunday to Sunday, the NBA and NHL flit into and out of my consciousness. Sometimes, I remember to watch the Knicks. Sometimes, I remember to check the hockey standings. As January rolls around, the NFL playoff takes center stage, and these weeks of games are all that separates us from pitchers and catchers. After the Super Bowl, this year at least, we get the Olympics, but those are more spectacle than sport.
When mid-February rolls around, I want spring to be on the horizon, but we are handed only some full-team workouts and pitcher fielding practice. It is but an amuse bouche well before the appetizers are even ordered. In March, the NCAA’s tournament sweeps through the sports world. Some live for Bracketology and the 65th team. Others wait the Sweet Sixteen, cheer for the Cinderella story and await the national championship game. And then it’s baseball’s time to shine.
Today, we sit amidst a slow time in baseball. A caution and sluggish market has come to a near-freeze, and although many players are teamless and jobless, they figure to remain so for a few more weeks before a pre-Spring Training glut of signings are announced. So we wait for football. We wait for spring. We count down the days until players trickle into Arizona and Florida. And we wonder which team will make the next move, which GM will surprise us all, which domino will fall next.