I am a fan of the Minnesota Twins. Your status as a fan is generally established early in life, in my case during lazy childhood summers at my grandparent's house. In the evening the ballgame was always on the radio, the play by play punctuated by staccatos of static as thunderstorms mixed it up somewhere out over the Dakotas.
It is possible-barely-to be a fan of more than one team. But only if your working life takes you to another part of the country, and even then, only if your two teams are in different leagues. To be a fan of, say, two American League teams is an abberation, sort of like polygamy.
So through the years, good and bad, I have cheered on my team.
And despite pre-season predictions of glory this is one stinky season.
Baseball is a game of both poetry and statistics. One stat that is rarely in error is that all teams will win one third of their games and will lose a third. The difference between the top and bottom finishers is how they do in the remaining third. As I put pinkies to the keyboard my team is currently 12-27.
Things went wrong from the very beginning. And I mean that literally. On the first play of the first game of the season an opposing batter beat out a scratch hit, pretty much getting a shoelace on first base ahead of the throw. Moments later the Twins pitcher caught the runner leaning the wrong way and they had him picked off. Or should have, but the newly acquired Japanese second baseman was in the wrong place, giving the runner second base and starting the early rally that lost Minnesota the game.
Perhaps hiring a player who did not understand English was a bad move.
And it just kept getting worse. The best player on the team is a catcher who makes 23 million dollars a year. He caught some sort of virus that gave him weakened legs and has missed almost the entire season to date. Half the team seems to have caught the same bug in short order. This virus must have been kind of like the ones that octagenerian premiers used to get during the latter days of the Soviet Union....a minor illness that lingers on and on. We won't soon be burying Joe Mauer in the Kremlin (I don't think) but the hopes for the 2011 season are dead barring a performance worthy of Lazarus himself.
"...Martha the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days." John 11:39
As veteran players shuffled off the scene looking like extras in a George Romero zombie flick the team brought in untried youngsters to fill the gaps. And like most child soldiers thrown into the heat of battle, they have fared poorly.
Well, as a long time fan I can find consolation in the reality that all teams, other than the despised New York Yankees, go through these stretches, and that better days will come. Next month, next year, (gulp) next decade. Somewhere in the wavering ranks of callow youths getting off the bus from the minor leagues there might be a pitching arm of supernatural power. Perhaps in the expected trading away of gimpy veterans a larcenous deal may be struck bringing in an infusion of new life.
In the meantime the relentless march of sore arms, weak legs, and relief pitchers who resemble arsonists more than firemen brings to mind the Trials of Job.
Job proved true at the end, but sitting in the dust, all his worldly goods gone, covered in hideous boils his faith might have wavered slightly at times.
Hmmm....hideous boils. Perhaps that is what the mysterious virus really was.
Addendum: The unexpected passing of Harmon Killebrew caused me to bump this post forward a few days. In the interim the Twins have won three straight. This is more than enough to kindle "the hope that springs eternal". But you must realize that "Casey at the Bat" was merely quoting a fragment of the Alexander Pope poem "Essay on Man". The full line actually runs:
"Hope Springs Eternal, in the Human Breast;
Man never Is, but always To be Blest."
By this he meant that while it is our nature to hope, perhaps even unrealistically, the reality is that our Blessings seem ever to lie in the indefinite future.
Al Pope. Chicago Cubs fan.