February 21, 2012
Admittedly, I try to push the arrival of spring every year to suit my current fancy. Back when connecting turns on the slopes took up more of my interest and time than it does these days, I always allowed it to manifest itself on a timeline of its own. Of late, however, I find myself giving it a nudge.
And, now, with pitchers and catchers having reported to various Major League Baseball spring-training sites, all bets are off and the nudge has come to push which has come to shove. In my mind, the sun is warm, the beer is cold, and the peanut shells are underfoot.
At such locales as Jupiter, Viera, and Fort Myers in Florida and Surprise in Arizona, the current boys of summer will soon be turning double plays, hitting behind the runner, and following brush-back high hard ones with a backdoor slider while at such equally quaint digs as Heber in Utah, fans practice following up winter with hard cider and a curveball of our own.
No longer satisfied with waiting on robins and aspen leaves as signs that spring is knocking at the door, we, the impatient among us, have been known to make it up as we go, assigning to even the smallest shift in the paradigm seasonal imperatives of the highest order. And in keeping with the hickory and horsehide analogies of the only game that really matters, we have deemed that henceforth it be known as the "harbinger curve."
And so, with the parent club of our own AAA Salt Lake Bees, the Los Angeles Angels, getting down to cleats and mitts in Tempe, Arizona, for the twentieth straight year, it’s taking no great amount of effort to become involved in the hoopla surrounding the arrival of slugger Albert Pujols and his $264 million back-end-loaded 10-year contract.
And then there are my L.A. Dodgers and their major identity crisis involving, of all things, ownership. We Trotskyite Dodger fans, of course, blame all this on the current corporate-America mindset and its profit-at-all-costs business model. On the upside, however, they did manage to resign Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.
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Once baseball gets underway, the floodgates open and the other sports harbingers of spring unfold in rapid succession. First the Daytona 500 on February 26, then The Masters Golf Tournament April 5-8, and the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle of Roush Fenway Racing already wrapped up the top two spots in Dayton 500 qualifying a few days back, proving that Ford remains near the top of the overall mix. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his number 88 Chevy Monte Carlo SS racecar, last year’s pole sitter, finished third. I just love the smell of old motor oil and a pinch of worn-out Copenhagen snuff on a beautiful spring morning.
There’s absolutely no doubt that spring has sprung when they tee it up down at Augusta National Golf Club for The Masters on the first Thursday of April. I’m always anxious to see who’s playing alongside whom during the first two rounds at Augusta. These groupings are put together any damn way the bigwigs please and oftentimes the resulting pairings make for great theater.
It’s all about Tiger at The Masters, of course, not to mention the greenest Bermuda fairways and bent-grass greens and the brightest dogwood and azalea blooms and the bluest ponds and coolest magnolias and, of course, the smuggest white male membership. You’ve gotta love the smell of old money and Jim Crow on a Georgia morning.
Which brings us to "the most exciting two minutes in sports," also known as the Kentucky Derby. I’m not sure what the effect of having the annual Churchill Downs "Run for the Roses" on Cinco de Mayo might be this year. Obviously, mint juleps and snifters of tequila do not a bad marriage make.
Without getting too much ahead of ourselves, however, it might well be noted that future odds for the mile-and-a-quarter race between the best three-year old thoroughbreds are continually updated with Algorithms (10-1) recently overtaking Union Rags (12-1) as the favorite. I love the smell of horse stalls and Kentucky bourbon in the morning.
Spring may not have actually sprung, but by the simple action of plugging in the coefficients generated by the Harbinger Curve, it’s possible to feel as if it has. Some years it’s just too difficult to wait on the vernal equinox.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for the past 40 years.