This Is The Year……Again.

I told myself I wouldn’t do it this year.  I told myself that unlike the 26 or so other opening days since I began rooting for the Baltimore Orioles, I wouldn’t get caught up in the optimism of spring.  I refused to let the fresh start and hope-filled dreams of a new season take over my normally tempered expectations of what the Orioles could do in 2012.  And you know why? Because I did it last year.  And the year before that.  And the year before that, too.  In fact, going back to say, 1987, to the infancy of my Orioles allegiance, I was plagued with eternal optimism for this club.  I really, really don’t want to expect anything out of this gang of kids, who manager Buck Showalter has convinced me could somehow compete with the likes of the Boston Red Sox and New Yankees in the afternoons of late August and early September.  Dammit Buck, you’ve done it. You’ve got me hoping.

Save for a three-year run in the late 90’s, being a fan of the Orioles hasn’t necessarily been filled with memorable moments.  They’ve cycled through managers at a blinding rate of 12 in the last 26 years.  They’ve shuffled general managers almost as frequently and during this off-season turned to a man who had been out of the league for 9 years to right the ship.  But every year that begins, with it begins a hope that finally they will stand up and let the rest of the league notice there’s someone else at the party aside from the Yankees and Red Sox. But still, no one else is listening.  This is, after all, the team that lost to a community college team yesterday, no matter how you spin it.

I woke up today as I did every year previously.  I knew it was the start of a new season, a very long season in fact-yet somehow had convinced myself that they could win it all on opening day.  Things will change. Foul balls down the line will bounce the other way and become triples in the corner.  Young starting pitchers are all Cy Young Award candidates on a day like this, and will go seven innings instead of four.  And what was once a fly ball caught at the warning track will find just a little more it to get over the left field wall.

Cal Ripken, Roberto Alomar, Mike Mussina and the mid 90’s are all long gone. Brady Anderson is back, but this time as an assistant coach.  What used to be a hope for a 100 win season is now the hope of avoiding a 100 loss season.  The Orioles used to be the hottest ticket in town, they were the penthouse apartment with a skyline view.  Now, the tickets are virtually free, and they’re a burned out house across the tracks.  Except today.  They’ll likely spend the next 161 games toiling in mediocrity at best, futility at worst.  But for today, at least, they are contenders.

The Oh My God Everyone Is Sick Of Tebow So Let Me Write About Tebow Blog

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Yup.  Tim Tebow. Because that’s what the world needs.  Another blog writing another entry about another take on the man who can do no wrong.  He hasn’t grabbed the nation’s attention per se, I’d  say he’s walked up, kicked it in the crotch, wrapped his hands round it’s neck, and screamed YOU WILL LISTEN TO ME.  In the nicest, most wholesome way possible, of course.  And as someone who for the last four years has been a bit worn out with the Tebow love, i’m ready to admit it: I’ve converted.  And I’d like to apologize for even using the religious metaphor, It seems anything anyone writes about #15 is compelled to litter their words with church and religion based hyperbole, But in this case, it’s the only thing that fits. I grew tired of him not because of Tebow himself but the insistence from every blue and orange laden Gator freak who insisted he was the second coming. Dammit, I did it again.

When he was was drafted, I assumed his train had come to it’s final stop, and he would fall into line with the rest of the rookies who wind up stringing together a few average years, make a boatload of cash, and then retire and wind up starting a business, or on Tebow’s case, continuing his ministry.  Fair enough.  Thanks for your time Timmy, it was a pleasure having you.

Then he became the starter in Denver.  And again, like most, I assumed he would be quickly weeded out, show that he in fact can’t play at the pro level and return to the bottom of the depth chart, allowing the Broncos to get him out of their system.  Ho hum.

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Then he started winning.  And like most, I figured it was a combination of good luck, matchups, and a whole bunch of mojo that enabled him to lead the Broncos on their mid-season surge that landed them in the postseason.  He kept winning, the drumbeat was getting louder and louder, until the Tebow-mania was consuming our daily lives.  And I was choking on it.  I needed air.

Watching the Broncos beat the Steelers last week turned the tide.  Sometime Saturday night, somewhere in the first half, I learned to love Tim Tebow.  It was the storied Pittsburgh Steelers, against the Broncos, who weren’t even supposed to be there, with a guy who wasn’t even supposed to be starting.  I put my chips down, pushed them to the middle of the green-I was going all in on the Tebow poker table. When he hit Demariyus Thomas for the game winning touchdown in overtime, my conversion was complete. I’d accepted Tebow into my sports life. And dammit, it felt good.

Are the constant references to his faith a little off-putting? Perhaps.  Will he have to, at some pojnt, explain that something other than his faIth was instrumental in throwing 3 touchdown passes? Probably.  But for now, I’ll take it.  Because he, and the rest of the Broncos, are writing a script that we’re all watching, whether we like it or not.  So you might as well embrace it.  It’s just easier in the long run. Oh, and for the sake of clarification, let’s get real on another issue.  God doesn’t care about football games.