You've heard the old saying, hope springs eternal? Well, around our house growing up, hope sprang eternally each and every spring.
Hope, as I recall, sat at the kitchen table wearing a collared shirt, dress slacks, suspenders, and owl-rimmed glasses, nervously listening to baseball broadcasts crackling over the airwaves from Chicago. And hope smoked a pipe for which wooden matches were ceaselessly, absentmindedly struck in an effort to keep the tobacco alight.
In our house, hope was my grandfather: a sportswriter, a baseball fanatic, and a diehard fan of the Chicago Cubs. Then, as now, you had to pretty much personify hope if you cheered for the hapless, hopeless Cubbies who had endured (and continue to endure) a seemingly ceaseless streak of unfathomable futility. Put it this way, today there are 106-year-olds in the Windy City who have never witnessed the Cubs winning the World Series. And we laugh at the not-since-'67 Leafs...
Regardless, every spring my grandfather deliberately disregarded things like scouting reports, preseason prognostications, facts, and logic, and hung his hat on the possibility that this just might be the Cubs' year. Even if altogether unfounded, such optimism was beautiful to behold. Such optimism is actually part of the swagger of springtime, it's part of the mystery and magic of baseball: that come spring, every team has a clean slate and fans can hold out a little hope for... hope.
Because, you see, over the course of a long baseball season, unforeseeable and unimaginable things happen on a regular basis and what purported experts deem to be inevitable isn't always inevitable. So-called 'sure things' stumble with surprising regularity and even those universally considered to be without hope can rightfully harbour hope -- as the old-timers are always acknowledging, "Stranger things have happened!" -- right up to the point in the season when the statisticians draw their pocket calculators, ring up the numbers, and determine that, alas, hope has officially, mathematically been eliminated.
Which brings me to your Toronto Blue Jays, who open their 2014 season on Monday in Tampa Bay. And if you listen to the purported experts (and there's a vociferous whack of them out there), if you've subjected yourself to an awful earful from the pontificators on Sports Talk Radio, you are fully aware that it is a season sans hope. Everyone's saying so. Just this week, one radio phone-in segment dealt with how the Jays should rebuild for 2015 -- all this before a single regular-season pitch has been thrown in 2014.
It's discouraging and disheartening. A friend called to lament, saying the barrage of know-it-all negativity has really sucked the joy and the life out of what normally is a joyous, lively and, yes, hopeful time of year.
I concurred, then reminded my friend that the same geniuses who have so hammered hope, killed joy, and buried the Jays, are the same gasbags who last spring were (slightly prematurely, it turns out) plotting World Series parades in downtown Toronto... For a team that would finish dead last in the American League East.
Fans, baseball is back. Like my grandfather before me, I'm holding out a little hope for hope, and for your Toronto Blue Jays. Because that's a time-honored tradition of spring, and it's part of the mystery and the magic of baseball.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: