Two great returns: baseball season & Mad Men
This is “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” a weekly feature inspired by the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
What’s Making Me Happy This Week is the return of two things I love, as this week marked the start of a new baseball season when the Yankees hosted the Boston Red Sox on Monday (among many other opening day games) and concluded a 3-game series with their hated rivals last night with a 4-2 win on the strength of the great lefty pitcher, Andy Pettitte, while this Sunday night is the 2-hour season premiere of the best television show of all time, Mad Men on AMC.
One of the wonderful things about baseball is the way you can count on it to always be there for you during the season. Night in, night out, there is almost always a game involving your favorite team, and except for one or two odd days around the All-Star break, there is always at least one interesting game going on every day and night. There’s something oddly reassuring about this. Every year, from the day I was born and likely through the day I die, from April through September, I know that I can turn on the television almost every single night while I’m eating dinner and be joined by my friends in pinstripes. I haven’t always been there for baseball; there are seasons where I watched nearly every inning of every game, seasons where I just casually checked in here and there, and many (like this one) that fall somewhere in between, where I will watch bits and pieces of most games but not make it appointment viewing. But baseball has been and always will be there for me.
Of course, not everything stays the same, especially in this day and age. One year MLB will add inter-league games, another year it will add instant replay. For the first opening day since 1995, Derek Jeter was not at shortstop for the Yankees, as he, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson all likely won’t be available until at least May 1. On the other hand, there is always enough continuity from season to season to ensure that it all stays familiar. Andy Pettitte gets the win and Mariano Rivera gets the save – a combination that long ago set the record for win-save combination in baseball history. More generally, the sounds of the game never change: the crack of the bat, the pop of a fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt, and – my favorite – the gentle roar of the crowd in big moments when the Yankee pitcher reaches two strikes. The images never change either: a player rounding the bases after a home run, a catcher attempting to throw out a runner stealing second base, the constant center-field view of the pitcher challenging the hitter … baseball will always look and sound like baseball. Every season is new, unfolding in its own unique way, yet baseball has been baseball for over 100 years and will be for 100 more.
In my last post I pulled a quote from the book Guitar Zero where Gary Marcus stated, “If I had to sum up human music for intergalactic travelers in a single concise phrase, it might be this: Repetition, with variation.” I think you could say exactly the same thing about baseball.
As for Mad Men, there’s little I could say to extol the virtues of this show that hasn’t already been said. I have seen every episode of the first 5 seasons at least twice each, sometimes more. That is not how I normally consume television. I would rather watch an episode of Mad Men for a second time than watch any other show on television a first time. And while most television shows lose steam as time goes on, at least one notable early review says that “The Season  Premiere Is Mad Men at Its Finest,” while another says that it “remains one of the best dramas ever” and “it continues to be one of the most satisfying dramas in the history of the medium.” You bet I’m excited.
Unlike baseball, I know one day that Mad Men won’t return for another season. I’m glad that day hasn’t yet come.
And that’s What’s Making Me Happy This Week.