THE LAST FIVE ...
Closing up shop
It may be time for a change
Entry in the air
Music of the moment
Or ... BE RANDOM!
Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 - 12:06 a.m.
The end of something*
This is always such a bittersweet time of year for me. It�s 12:03 a.m., three minutes after the Empire State Building outside my window shut off its floodlights for the night, three minutes after August turned to September.
The bitterness comes with the promotions on every baseball game I turn on these days. Teams in playoff races are pushing postseason ticket packages, but all clubs have begun taking down payments on 2006 season tickets. Next year�s season tickets mean this year is almost over. The minor leagues will finish their regular seasons between now next week�s column, meaning where I once had my choice of 10 or 12 major- and minor-league ballparks within a two-hour drive, I�ll soon be down to less than half of that. Summer, at least that part of it that falls into the 14 weeks from Memorial Day to Labor Day, is nearly gone. The pool at our complex will be closed come Tuesday and I never went down there in the mornings to swim laps like I told myself I would in February.
But with every end comes a new beginning. I�m used to these conflicting emotions around this time of year, having conditioned myself to eagerly anticipate the arrival of my birthday and not look the three or four days past it when school would be starting. I�d allow myself to enjoy the presents and the party before I�d let myself think about Trapper Keepers and backpacks. So with the end of summer and the waning days of the baseball season, I�m reminded that in sports, seasons don�t end. They simply fade from one to the other like a good DJ subtly mixing songs to the point where you suddenly realize you�ve been dancing for 15 minutes when you�d planned to hit the bar two songs ago.
As baseball ends, football begins � particularly college football. Nothing beats the shuffling and crunching of dried leaves on a college quad as you head to a tailgate party on a brisk Saturday morning beneath a cobalt sky. The fall is my favorite season, and September into October probably my favorite time of year. I think I�m still conditioned to the structure of the school calendar, where September meant a new beginning and a new year. Perhaps I�m just programmed differently from other people, but the sensations of rebirth and new beginnings that many tend to associate with the spring come to me in the fall. I�m sure much of that has to do with the lasting relationships � romantic and platonic � that have begun or been nurtured in past Septembers and Octobers. Some of those, again, were fostered in classrooms and dorm rooms, bringing it all back to school.
I'm always torn this time of year, wanting summer to stick around for another two weeks or so yet happy to see the arrival of autumn. It won't be long before the latter takes over. Perhaps tomorrow, certainly at some point on Saturday as I leave Pittsburgh's PNC Park after the Cubs-Pirates game and head to a tailgate before the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh football faceoff, I will think, That was a nice summer. I'm ready for fall.
I'm ready for changing leaves and clear skies, for superbly gorgeous cool days and the late-afternoon light casting a golden glow on the New York skyline.
This year, for the first time I'll have experienced it, the metaphoric changing of the seasons -- baseball into football, that is -- will unfold for me in person. The crack of the bat will become the crunch of the shoulder pads, the crowd's roar at the sight of a home run will be replaced by its roar at the spectacle of a broken tackle and an open field ahead. It will happen in the same city on the same day, in sparkling new stadia nestled side-by-side on the Pittsburgh riverfront. For me, it will be the best sports day ever as one season slips seamlessly into the other.
Next page: On the eve of my wedding
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