Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why time begins on opening day…

"Well, at least the Chicago Cubs are trying. They installed a new pitching machine the other day. Unfortunately it beat them 4-1."
Ahhhh, spring. The time of year when the weather finally starts to warm up, the pollen situation spirals out of control and the flowers begin to unfurl. And two of the best sports traditions in the history of sports take place...Can you say March Madness and OPENING DAY, BABY?!!
In my little corner of the sports world, the past few days have been pretty dang good. For one, my beloved Wisconsin Badgers are in the Sweet Sixteen...and I can already taste the Final Four (take that Davidson!). Second, the Cubs have actually won their last few games. Okay, okay...so Opening Day at Wrigley Field is actually Monday. And yes, the recent wins I referred to have all been related to spring training. But we're talking about the Lovable Losers. I'll take whatever victories I can get!
A couple years ago, when I called South Florida home, I was fortunate to live within walking distance of the facility where the Marlins and the Cardinals did their spring training. We spent many a fabulous - and cheap! - March afternoon sitting in the sunshine, watching some of the best teams in the MLB play. Keep in mind, many of my friends will actually plan vacations around spring training, replacing trips to the Caribbean or Europe with outings to Arizona or Florida - so my close proximity to such a stadium was the focal point of great envy. Oh, those were the good ole days.
Anyhoo, for those unable to comprehend the importance of Opening Day, it's a chance to forget the previous losing season - or in the case of the Cubs, the last century - in the hopes that this year will be THE year. I once called in sick to work to attend Opening Day at Wrigley Field, only to be caught "Ferris Bueller" style on TV, sitting in the bleacher section with friends. And you know what? I'd do it again! (Sidenote to Sam Zell...Don't you DARE sell the naming rights to Wrigley. There will be riots in the streets of Chicago if you do!)
But, as usual, I digress.
While I will attend my share of Braves games now that I'm in Atlanta - and I certainly plan to make it back to Wrigley Field for at least one or two games this year - I also expect to watch many a ball game from the friendly confines of my apartment. And in those cases, rather than chowing down on either a fully loaded hot dog, breaded chicken tenders, nachos, salty peanuts and ice cream (or any variation of the above), I'll be trying to stick to a healthier menu.

So here are a few sugar-free recipes designed to capture the feel of the typical ballpark diet without striking out on the calories.

Five Pepper Salsa
Spicy Texas Pecans
Lemon Chicken Strips
Fresh Mango Sorbet

Finally, to end things on the ultimate high note, here is a more than 20-year-old clip of infamous "Cub Fan, Bud Man" - aka Mr. Harry Caray - singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Alright! Lemme hear ya! Ah-One! Ah-Two! Ah-Three!

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