AT THE RISK OF RAINING on someone else's parade, baseball in April consists principally of (1) rain and (2) someone else's parade. The Opening Day parade in Cincinnati remains the best thing about April baseball, whose other charms are limited to concession-stand coffee, blankets in the bleachers, the plaintive cry of a hot cocoa vendor, rally balaclavas and that most deflating of all phrases: "small sample size." If you see a man in a ski mask holding a baseball bat this month, he's either knocking over a 7-Eleven or moving over a runner from second. In either case, there will be few witnesses.
As you celebrate the simultaneous return of spring and baseball, bear in mind that baseball in April is one of those diversions—like reading or running or getting together with family—that many profess to enjoy but few enjoy in practice. Life is full of guilty pleasures, things you assume nobody else loves but you (Storage Wars, string cheese). Less attention is paid to our guilty displeasures—things everyone else seems to love except you (Downton Abbey, kale).
We are all prisoners of our own biases. A great many people are keeping up with the Kardashians, even if you don't know anyone who is. Conversely, you don't have a single acquaintance who didn't watch the Super Bowl, though far more Americans missed it (208 million) than saw it (112 million). In an annual rite of spring, the trolls returned in V formation last week to express disdain for women's basketball, using UConn's remarkable success as a cudgel. AREA MAN DISLIKES WOMEN'S BASKETBALL, KEEPS IT TO HIMSELF is a headline we'll never see, not even in The Onion. It's a strange impulse, this reverse evangelizing, urging people to dislike the things you dislike.
Often we like the idea of something while disliking its reality. April baseball is one of these things. You can love spring and baseball without having to love spring baseball, just as you can love Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison without loving the Traveling Wilburys. I like Sno Cones, and I like snowstorms, but baseball in April is a Sno Cone in a snowstorm.
And yet, there are all sorts of things in sports that everyone else seems to like, leaving me to assume I'm the only one who doesn't get it. My list is long and includes fantasy sports, fantasy drafts, and real drafts in real sports. For years the NFL and NBA drafts were what they appeared to be—men writing names on slips of paper. Now they're bureaucracy-as-spectacle, preceded by days of mock drafts. Whenever I feel a mock draft, I put on a mock turtleneck.
Or used to: Even Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey, its last proponent, dropped his signature mock turtleneck, succumbing to the tyranny of fashion, which wants everybody to look the same.
And so we dress alike, think alike, laugh at the same memes, each of us looking at the 10,000th iteration of a Crying Michael Jordan and wondering, Am I the only one who finds this inane? When Mets pitcher Matt Harvey was discovered to have a blood clot in his bladder last week, the New York Post ran headlines that read, SWING & A PISS, PISS & TELL, PEE BRAIN and URINE LUCK. Even when a man's health is not involved, these headlines are never my CUP OF PEE (as a Post editor somehow failed to put it), but I keep this guilty displeasure to myself, not wanting to be a wet blanket (another hallmark of April baseball).
None of this is meant to sound contrarian. On the contrary. If I've tried to enjoy motor sports and not succeeded, it is entirely my failing. Nor have I been sufficiently enamored of the NFL over the years, a lack of ardor that has come to feel like a character defect.
With these, and many other popular phenomena, I'll quietly remain on the outside looking in. Unless you want to ski or snowboard—or hunt or fish—in which case I'll remain on the inside, by the fire, looking out. The same goes for these first few weeks of the baseball season. Given the choice, I'll accept FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) over MOFO (My Onions Freezing Off) every time.
If you see a man in a ski mask with a bat this month, he's knocking over a 7-Eleven or moving over a runner.
What do you secretly like to dislike in sports?
Join the discussion on Twitter by using #SIPointAfter and following @SteveRushin
DAMIAN STROHMEYER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
COURTESY STEVE RUSHIN