8 a.m. on a gray February morning, in my 7th grade classroom, I was getting out books for the school day and my classmates were filing in.
Then, my friend walked in the room and we immediately burst out shouting.
“Do you know what day it is?!”
“Pitchers and catchers report today! Baseball is back!”
This was followed by hooping and hollering, fist pumping, high fiving, and the deep seated joy that only baseball can create. The best time of year had arrived again.
The romance of baseball
I am a native of Cincinnati: the city where major league baseball was born on May 4, 1869. My love for baseball is inherent and I could gush about the beauty and goodness of the game, the history of baseball, and why it is the greatest sport. Like they said in the movie “Moneyball,” “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
Last year’s season was shriveled and shrunk to a mere shell of what baseball’s season ending is meant to be as COVID shut down the world. But now, as the pandemic wanes and Opening Day is upon us, we need to let baseball lead the way, as an opener to the American comeback story.
COVID killed hundreds of thousands and shut down our economy and has done untold damage to our country and society. But it is time for Americans to do what we do best: stubbornly pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and be the comeback kid.
Any baseball fan knows that you stick with your team through thick and thin. It doesn’t matter if there hasn’t been a playoff win in your lifetime (the Reds haven’t won a playoff game since 1995) or if there is a 108 year drought, the curse of the Billy Goat, or even the curse of the Bambino. You stay loyal. Always. And you start every season believing that this could be the greatest one yet.
Take the 1914 Boston Braves for example. For about 10 years, they had been bottom dwellers of the National League, averaging nearly 100 losses a year, going through seven different managers, and four different owners.
On July 6, 1914 they were in last place, 15 games out of first place. The first half of the season was so abysmal that they even lost 10-2 in an exhibition game to a Buffalo farm team. But phoenixes always have to rise out of ashes. The hopeless and hapless Boston Braves had a fabulous second half of the season, going 68-19 and winning the pennant by 10 games.
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As the plucky team destroyed everyone in their path, fans went wild, but the Braves shabby ballpark, South End Grounds, could only hold a few thousand fans. So, the Red Sox offered to let them use Fenway. 20,000 attended their first home game at Fenway.
After beating the Giants, (the three-time defending NL champions) and clinching the NL pennant, the Boston Braves swept the Philadelphia Athletics to win the World Series.
The American comeback
1914 was the year of the Miracle Boston Braves. Now 2021 can be the Miracle American Comeback year.
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After political strife, economic downfall, and societal upheaval, the U.S. needs a comeback in the worst way. In order to survive as a nation, there is a lot of rebuilding that needs to be accomplished. But to even begin the grunt work of rebuilding after a season of heavy losses, Americans need to be baseball fans in their loyalty and belief that we can indeed be the comeback kid.
April 1 is Opening Day. So get ready, because America and baseball is back baby.
Abby Liebing is the Opinion Fellow for USA TODAY. Follow her on Twitter: @liebing_abby