Not only was it Holy Week last week, it was the official start of the baseball season. The two might seem like chalk and cheese, but baseball is the one game that takes on an almost religious quality. Every new season in every sport is a fresh start, an opportunity to start with a clean sheet. The sins of past seasons are wiped clean and there is an air of optimism in every fan's heart no matter the apparent quality of the team.
The unique thing about baseball is that the game is played pretty much every day for six months. Teams get an occasional day off, but there are several games somewhere every single day. With 162 games to play, no one game looms large and the pace is more relaxed than all other major sports.
Another endearing feature of baseball is that it is uniquely suited to radio. In some ways it's even better to listen to a game unfold on the radio, and the masters of calling a game know just how to pace their delivery of the story to enthrall the listener. The very best voices are deep and measured, with just a hint of gravel. One of the masters for decades has been Harry Kalas, veteran announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies. Having lived in Philadelphia, I remember Kalas fondly, even though it was twenty years ago. It was therefore with much sadness that the baseball world heard this week that Kalas had died at the age of 73 of heart failure while at the stadium preparing for a broadcast.
That wasn't even the most tragic story of the season so far. A week ago, 22 year old Nick Adenhart of the Angels pitched a fabulous game, only the fourth of his young career, and was killed by a drunk driver in a hit and run car accident later that night.
And as if that wasn't enough, Mark Fidrych, an idiosyncratic pitcher in the 70's who had a short but fascinating career, died in a strange accident on his farm at age 54. He has been out of baseball for almost 30 years, and his career was over before I arrived in North America, but his is still an instantly recognized name.
Sometimes sport can be seen as a diversion from life, but it can also often show us more about life and encourage us to make the most of the time we have.
Oh, and it doesn't hurt that the hometown Seattle Mariners are off to an improbably good start, fueling the eternal optimism with which every seaosn starts...