I think the best advice for fans of the Baltimore Orioles is this: Keep your expectations low. That way, you won't be crushingly disappointed when they don't win the division, and you might be pleasantly surprised if they do. Do I speak the truth, faithful companions? Are we on the same page?
I think I give sound advice.
You're looking at a guy who gave up high hopes for Lent and never went back.
I now have reached the stage in life where I keep my expectations where my mother, the former Rose Popolo, keeps her breakfast cereal - on a low shelf. That way, my expectations, like Rose's Rice Krispies, are always within reach.
If things go beyond expectations - if we should happen to find, say, Froot Loops instead of Rice Krispies - well, then, that's wonderful. God be praised, and all that.
But I don't expect it.
I don't go there with my thoughts.
I no longer make optimistic forecasts. I expect rain. I look for snow on Easter. (Are you counting metaphors at home?) It's not that I'm a pessimist. It's that I'm acutely aware of the fact that the Orioles have had nine losing seasons in a row, and this country elected George Bush twice.
I just keep my expectations on simmer.
I realize, of course, that this will sound like a sour note to a lot of people, especially the thousands of desperate-seekers-of-sales-tips who paid to attend Zig Ziglar's all-day motivational seminar at 1st Mariner Arena yesterday. (By the way, my new nickname for the place is The Firmina, though I have no expectation that anyone else will use it.)
I realize that we are a couple of weeks into spring now, and spring is a time of optimism, a time of renewed faith, a time of rebirth, a time to strip away the gray tweed of winter and reach for a bright springy thing in your closet and dress up nicely.
But do we expect the bright springy thing to fit perfectly, as it did a year ago? No. We expect it to cut off circulation in our abdominal area.
One expects to look at oneself in one's mirror and become disgusted with oneself, doesn't one?
So, when the bright springy thing actually fits, and one can actually breathe while wearing it, one takes great delight from the small victory.
You see how this works?
Keep the expectations low.
The other night I attempted fish sticks - that is, I tried to make them at home.
My son saw a commercial on TV for potato-encrusted frozen fish sticks, and he announced that these looked appealing and wanted me to buy some.
"That's frozen garbage," I said. "I can make them better myself."
My son laughed.
Next day, I went to the store. I bought some dense, white fish I'd never heard of. It was from Indonesia. (I never expect to see fish from the George's Bank at the market anymore.) I bought some potatoes. I made mashed potatoes. I cut the fish filets into strips. I padded the fish strips with the mashed potato and deep-fried them.
It was an experiment. I envisioned - but had absolutely no expectation of creating - symmetrical, golden-brown fish sticks like Mrs. Gorton's, or whatever her name is.
I didn't even come close.
But I wasn't disappointed.
I didn't stress over it. I didn't get depressed. That's the beauty of it.
I ended up with some kind of fish croquette.
My son ate it. And he liked it. In fact, he had a second helping.
This made me happy.
Sometimes, faithful companions, that's as good as it gets.
Just as I would like to be able to create a symmetrical, golden-brown fish stick in my kitchen, I would love to see the Orioles make a run for the American League pennant. I would love us all to feel again what we felt way back, when Cal was a rookie, and Orioles' Magic was real.
But I don't expect it. I don't look for it. I don't argue the possibility in barrooms. Nor do I allow the smug Yankee and Red Sox fans to get on my nerves. I will neither punish myself with crushing pessimism nor allow myself any optimism.
The Orioles stay bottom shelf for now.
If I should wake up after the All-Star break and discover the Orioles making an underdog run for the American League East, I'll be intrigued and quietly enthusiastic. But I'll remain sober-faced, even a little grumpy about the whole thing.
It's better that way. It really is.
As for now, when I go to a game at Camden Yards, it'll be to sit in the yonder sunshine, watch the old ballgame and enjoy a beer, for which I'll expect to pay at least $10. If it costs less, then God be praised and all that.