Friday, March 25, 2005

Spring brings songs to my heart

Spring is here, spring is here
Life is skittles and life is beer
I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring.
I do, don't you? 'Course you do.
But there's one thing that makes spring complete for me,
And makes every Sunday a treat for me.
- Tom Lehrer, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”

Today is Good Friday. Sunday will be Easter. I know this because my battered, cat-chewed calendar tells me so, and not because there are signs of solemn celebration anywhere in my neighborhood -- not even at the church down the block. I gather that Presbyterians, by and large, are not terribly ostentatious in their displays of faith.
On the other hand, there are displays of support for the undefeated Fighting Illini all over the place. Not only have I seen Chief Illiniwek on baking powder cans, on flags in windows, and on jackets of orange and navy, but the grocery stores are now carrying those chocolate cupcakes immersed in coconut-crusted, rubbery marshmallow... in Illini colors.
On March third, I asked my mother hopefully if March Madness was over, yet. Sadly, we had an entire month for me to suffer. It’s not that I don’t like watching sports on the boob tube... well, yes it is. Still, it isn’t the sports that are the problem. It’s the way the networks -- especially CBS -- seem to jump from one game to the next without allowing us to see the complete action. With two minutes left in a game I find myself emotionally invested in, they switch to another with a closer score -- but with five minutes left in the new game. They couldn’t let us see the end of one before they cut to another? It’s not as though, at two minutes, a ten-point lead is absolutely insurmountable, after all. But, even though I dislike having bad coverage of college sports on network television, and am always happy to see it end, I am not really looking forward to April.
I’m not a big fan of the end of this winter, after all.
Don’t get me wrong -- I love that our hemisphere tilts toward the sun, for the warmth upon my face. I enjoy celebrating the anniversary of my birth, each year a precious gift after a reckless youth. I cherish the return of leaves, like delicate lace, to the branches of the trees. I thrill to the arrival of Cubs’ baseball season, for the hope it always brings me.
But, like the lovely flowers that waft irritating pollen toward my delicate nose, baseball has me sniffing, too. The fetid aroma of scandal is back from the nether world, and -- stop the presses -- some of the players are implicitly blaming the press and the fans! We, it seems, demand too much of these mortals, and so they choose to do themselves permanent damage, just to please us. It has nothing at all to do with multi-million-dollar playing contracts, endorsement contracts, or other peripheral sources of income. It has nothing to do with individual or collective egos (and on the topic of egos, Congress probably didn’t need to get involved in it, but it didn’t look as though the players’ union would have been trying to force anybody to take personal responsibility any time soon).
I’m not talking about just the steroid scandal, either. Barry Bonds, in his press conference earlier this week, blamed the press for his grave suffering: jeepers! it put his marriage on the rocks and a strain on his kids, and absolutely ruined his relationship with his mistress. His life was miserable because the press hounded him, never allowing him to keep his questionable conduct private. And, due to a combination of knee surgery and outside pressure, he might not be able to bring himself to play ball this year. He announced, for what seemed an hour (but, I am informed, it only lasted fifteen minutes) that he was tired. If Bonds was playing for pity, he failed. As he droned on about his exhaustion, and pointed the finger of blame at everybody in the room except himself, all I could hear in my head was Madeline Kahn’s character, Lili Von Shtupp-- a woman of ill repute -- in Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles”, singing her raunchy song: “I’m tired/ Tired of playing the game/ Ain’t it a crying shame?/ I’m so tired/ G-ddammit I’m tired!” I couldn’t stop laughing at him. And yet, he might look lovely in a “merry widow” , negligee, and black stockings.
Spring is a time of rebirth. Maybe we need for somebody to knock down everything and start again from the beginning. Let me get my allergy medication and my sunscreen, and, Put me in, Coach! I’m ready to play today. My knee is almost as good as Barry’s, and I can complain with the best of ’em.

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