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All Is Perfect in Red Sox Nation Today
By Bob Ekstrom for Boston Dirt Dogs
Opening Day. The jewel of spring. A metaphor of hope that will turn to fool's gold in many baseball towns before the iris blooms. In a sense, it's an occasion well-suited for permanent residence on April Fool's Day, yet this is only the fourth time in MLB history the two have coincided.
This year's convergence of baseball and foolery seems particularly appropriate in Red Sox Nation. Against the backdrop of epic collapses the last two seasons, the baseball gods will find us an abundant source of merriment, entirely predisposed to be taken in by their pranks. They'll exploit our longing for discount beers, get-one-free hot dogs, and a return to the green fields of 2007, and tantalize us with a prognostication that by summer will have proven too good to be true. Today, all we have to do is believe and winter can be spring.
But in the believing comes a claim on our souls. The realist in each of us knows there's no column for faith in won-lost standings. Our team simply swings the bat and tries to hit it where they ain't more than the other guys do. Nevertheless, we'll churn every ounce of rationalism into baking this Sox edition into contenders. That's our end of an implicit contract in which Yawkey Way pledges to forever again abstain from uttering the phrase 'bridge year.' We call it feeding the monster, and where are we in the end? Inevitably, at the front end of another cold winter.
That's when Opening Day is born. It starts as a fleck of light in deepest January, as if shone through the pinhole of thick construction paper, but it steadily grows into a fiery sun unto itself. It makes us ask ourselves, what if this time is different? What if we're not the butt end of an annual joke?
This Sox squad could be the ringing telephone whose earpiece is not covered in shaving cream. Worst-to-first has certainly been done enough to make us want to answer it. Look no further than the 2007 Chicago Cubs or the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. Last year's Red Sox were the previous year's Orioles - 69 wins and dead last. Is it unreasonable to expect this more-talented team to go at least as far as a wild card entrant?
Opening Day is a svelte John Lackey. It's a healthy Will Middlebrooks. Stolen glimpses of the form that brought Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to no-hitter fame. A warm hello to Jackie Bradley Jr. and a farewell tour for Jacoby Ellsbury, the last rookie to garner this much attention and who is with us today by the grace of some forethought back in 2007 that is being vilified in 2013.
Baseball writer Red Smith once likened Opening Day to crepes suzette for breakfast or a circus that opens with the tigers uncaged. George Vescey says it gives him the sense of beating back the forces of darkness. For Mark Newman, it's a shiny mirror in which to look at ourselves and see how much our lives have changed.
In New England, there is change this spring. Opening Day is the return of a team with on-field focus and off-field passion that has been missing in The Fens for a very long time. They are again the lean, hungry mass whom success has not yet jaded. They are Rocky I, the Josey Wales Clint Eastwood, Whiskey A Go-Go Jim Morrison before his lounge act sound on L.A. Woman.
Today is a knock on the door. Sure, it's April Fool's Day, and there very well may be a flaming bag of dog feces at the step with John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Tom Werner crouching behind a bush somewhere, holding back the giggles. But there may also be a bright spring day waiting on the other side.
After this long winter, I'm willing to take that chance.
Chip Benson: The Monster That Ate Fenway