If you believe the timestamp (which you should) then you know that morning came pretty early around here today. When you consider that I fell asleep two hours ago, this is a very, very early morning for me.
I’m in bed watching ESPN 2 at this ungodly hour, usually classified as “ungodly” due to “Mike and Mike in the Morning” being broadcast. However, Mike Squared is relegated to ESPN News today, and unlike most mornings I actually want to watch what The Four Letter has to offer me.
To the uneducated spectator, the Red Sox are playing a spring training game in Skydome, but a Skydome with green walls. Perhaps it is energy efficient this year, or maybe they wanted the drapes to match the carpet. Either way, things are a bit off everywhere you look, from the writing on the walls to the cheers from the crowd.
After a while you shake out the cobwebs and notice the RICOH decals on the helmets, and maybe you start to wonder why this game is on so early. Oh, that’s right, the Red Sox are playing Oakland on the other side of the planet.
Things around here are strange to say the least.
What is interesting is that in a way this seems completely ordinary. Baseball is “back”, and its opening series is taking two teams completely outside of the country to play games that actually count. This is a growing trend with pro sports leagues, with most (NHL, NFL) choosing to go east to the motherland of England. (The NBA, always with the identity crisis, does both) The result is endless questions about how this will affect teams and players and everything that isn’t the game of baseball.
Again, things around here are strange. Bud Selig is talking about his proactive stance on steroids (strange, lie) while Daisuke Matsuzaka struggles through his first start back on the island (not strange, expected). The term “baseball for breakfast” is being used every 35 seconds, and it is only making me hungry. Cereal sounds really, really good right now but may not have the motor skills to eat it in bed this early.
The odd thing about all this is that somewhere down the line I will be able to name Japan as the reason for the Red Sox early season struggles. Pundits always say the hardest thing to do in sports is win a championship. I say the hardest thing to do is win a championship again, and starting a few hundred miles from home certainly raises the bar a bit.
Quick story: I ran into a Yankees fan at work on Friday who started talking about when New York played the Blue Jays in Japan a few years back. He told a story about a pitcher (whose name is slipping me now) who was so messed up by the trip to Japan he sat in his hotel room eating PB&J sandwiches the entire time. If a story like that doesn’t rattle you, you haven’t seen Jonathan Papelbon with baby fat. Here, allow me:
So am I worried about what will happen this year with the 17 hour flights taken into account? Of course I am, but what can you really do? The Bills are playing games in Toronto this year, the Sabres will probably miss the playoffs, and apparently you can’t take hookers across state lines. What a world we live in.
Still, today is anything but opening day. The world champs are opening their season in Japan, but this “opening series” is aptly named because it is simply the first series, not opening day. Today and tomorrow are kooky, loopy games in another country that happen to count in the standings. Opening day might be next Monday, or maybe in Toronto on April 4th, or even when the banners raise in Fenway weeks from now. Take your pick, the monkier is better applies to any of those over this two game set at Tokyodome. (Note to self: copyright “Buffadome”)
For now, the prospect of baseball being back is enough for me. I don’t care that Boston opens up on the road, or even that fatigue could be a very real result for some players. Right now, all that matters is baseball is back. Manny already has two RBIs, Matsuzaka has found some control, and just when you thought winter would never end we have our first official sign of spring. Even if, you know, that sign is being given on the other side of the world at an ungodly hour.
It’s been an interesting day already.