LAKELAND, FLA. — I have made myself a promise. I am not going to get poetic today. Everyone else may go ga-ga just because the Tigers are playing their first game of baseball of The Year of our Lord, 1986.

But not me.

Who against?

It is trendy, I know, to sit down each spring and pound out wonderful words about our National Pastime. How we all feel reborn when the ump yells “Play Ball!” How baseball rekindles the little boy — or girl — in all of us.

I know. I read The New Yorker. But this year, I am breaking ranks. Everyone else in this business may be willing to turn into some kind of junior-league Hemingway just because the Tigers play their first baseball game today.

But not me.

The White Sox?

Let those other sheep wail on about how life itself begins with the first pitch. Bah. Humbug.

Where’s football? Bring it back. I miss the Chicago Bears. I miss headbands and shuffles. I miss crunched legs and crushed arms and a good concussion or two. Bring it back.

Everyone else may be willing to turn their back on the NFL and the wonderful doings of Jim McMahon and the New England 7. Or were there eight? Everyone else may have dropped Refrigerator Perry like a hot potato — a humongous hot potato — just because the Tigers are playing their first game of baseball today.

But not me.

What time? Support your local fighters

What about basketball? The NBA is at the height of its season. How do you think they feel out there, dribbling and sweating every night, sometimes both at the same time, and here we are going nuts over a baseball game? An exhibition baseball game. Hey. Tall men have feelings too. It could break their hearts. You just can’t reach them.

No. Everyone else may be willing to forget about the NBA, turn their backs on the Birds and the Bols, ignore all the magnificent foul shooting that takes place on a nightly basis, not to mention the fabulous halftime shows, just because the Tigers play their first baseball game today.

But not me.

Are there seats left?

And then there’s hockey. What about hockey? This is still wintertime, you know. Ice? Remember ice? How do you think those hockey players feel, slamming one another into the boards and taking each other’s eyes out while the fans sit there with transistor radios glued to their ears? Why, it’s almost enough to make them stop fighting altogether and go home and play Scrabble. Do you want that on your conscience?

Someone has to show a sense of obligation. Everybody else may be willing to turn their backs on all those lonely faces in the penalty box just because the Tigers are playing their first game of baseball today.

But not me.

How do you get there? Give me dribbles, not doubles

And what about those college basketball players? They work hard for their money. Oops. Well, uh, what about them anyhow, knocking themselves out trying to make the NCAA tournament? What kind of example are we setting for our young men and women when we abandon them in the middle of a four-corner offense to get the glove out of the attic?

No. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and I, for one, will not be a part of this conspiracy to ruin the few that are still out there. Everybody else may be willing to ignore Slippery Rock versus Canisius just because the Tigers are playing their first baseball game today.

But not me.

Who’s pitching?

As protest I am sitting right here, in my hotel room. I am boycotting the first game. I’m going to flip on ESPN and watch the finals of Men’s World Cup Skiing from Freezitoff, West Germany, a good winter sport which is conveniently shown at 1:30 p.m., the same time as the Tigers’ first game of baseball this season, and which will last about three hours, or about as long as it will take Jack Morris and Frank Tanana to shut down the White Sox today, and besides which, there will be no interruptions from hot dog vendors or roaring fans and all the beer I want is right here in the refrigerator, and

it is even cold.

Everyone else may be stupid.

But not me.

I am going to sit here.

All day long.

Right here.

Not moving.

Jack Morris?

Making a statement.

Tanana?

What time is it?

I’ll, uh, be back in a minute, OK? …

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