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Opening Day: Escaping Reality

By Elie G. Kaunfer

You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you're a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen. Joe DiMaggio

Enough with the the front page. Give me the Sports section. Finally I can start worrying about things that don't matter.

Opening Day, and none too soon. The first week in April is that oasis we have all been crawling towards since our favorite team was climinated in the fall.

At 2:35 p.m. today, I will have nothing on my mind but the logic of the Red Sox starting lineup and the hope that Roger Clemens will throw a no-hitter.

Ahh. Finally I can start worrying about things that don't matter.

The months from November to April are pure hell, ask any fan. And it's not because most of our favorite players gripe about their salaries or ask to be traded. In fact, those are some of the better days of the off-season.

The worst part about the waiting period is that we have to deal with reality for a while.

Weeks go by without any mention of baseball on the news. Those of us who read the paper wonder why we didn't cancel our subscription after the World Series. And even though I try to fight it for a while, I start to pay attention to the front page again.

These are the depressing months. Heavy thoughts burden our minds. Think of what you've done during the off-season. I started paying close attention to Yeltsin in Russia and Clinton's budget proposal. I sat through a one-hour special with Peter Jennings in which he told me and millions others that someone had better invade Serbia or you can start the countdown towards World War III. Then I spent two hours with my roommate discussing whether we would fight if drafted.

I waste away my nights talking with friends about very serious stuff. I question my belief in God and start pondering the meaning of life. What will we all become when we grow up? Will we find happiness in our job, our family? Will we have a family? Will we have a job?

Sure, I can get my mind off it for a while. Tests and papers manage to distract me during the day, but even these prove to be quick fixes. Especially when the topics I'm studying increase the burden. How does one become virtuous? I have to struggle with this question every time I walk into my Moral Reasoning class. I end up looking forward to statistics class just to case my mind.

But today starts the seven month distraction. I crowd out questions of morality and mortality with much more pressing quandaries. First of all, there are the outrages of the game to consider.

Imagine, Roger Clemens got stiffed for the Cy Young award again last year. This is ridiculous. On any other team (bite my tongue) he would have cleared 20 wins, and his ERA and strikeouts were among the top in the league. Three years ago he lost to Bob Welch. (Bob who?) Out and out injustice. I could win 27 games pitching for the 1990 Oakland A's.

And who keeps this general manager around season after season? Leaving Eric Wedge unprotected was insane, and trading Jeff Bagwell for Larry "one month" Anderson was most definitely immoral. Not to mention expecting us to believe for one second that Jeff Russell (ERA over 11.00 this spring) is going to be our stopper. To the streets, it's time to protest!

Then there are the scary subjects of baseball like fading team loyalty. I used to root for the hellish Mets just so we could meet them again in the World Series with a repentant Bill Bucknes at first. But, how can we have a crusade of revenge when Clemens and Mike Greenwell are the only remaining Red Sox and Darry! Strawberry plays for the Dodgers? Losing the Series because of an error was bad enough, but giving up the chance to make amends by leaving the Sox for more money was the ultimate fulfillment of the Curse.

And, of course, the final blow was delivered this winter by the Hitman himself. What's the deal with Wade Boggs going to the accursed Yankees and telling the press he likes it there? Is this the same Chicken Man who did all the promos for the Jimmy fund and was the idol of every sandlot hitter in New England? Do you realize, Mr. Boggs, that you're wearing the same uniform that Bucky Dent donned when he killed our pennant hopes in '78?

But the biggest questions I find myself pondering late at night during baseball season are the metaphysical ones. Think about this for a moment...The Red Sox finally complete their 75 year quest for World Champions. Clemens and the rest fight triumphantly past the Blue Jays, the A's and the National League to bring home a series pennant. Boston goes bonkers for a few weeks and hundreds of baseball authors find themselves scurrying desperately for new plots.

But what happens after the Sports Illustrated highlight film is complied? I for one wouldn't know what to do. The search would be over, and all would be lost. Assuming world peace isn't declared as a consequence (a strong possibility), baseball in New England would end. There would be nothing to hope for anymore. All rationale in following baseball would be reduced to hoping for a repeat or rooting for personal player achievement.

Has anyone stopped to think about the fact that what we Sox fans pray for every night would in fact lead to the undoing of our sport? Quel Paradox!

These are the kinds of moral dilemmas I have been waiting for months to worry about. Enough with the front page. Give me section C. Reality has been defeated once again by the mighty Boys of Summer.

And it all begins today.

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