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Life & Timez ; excerpts from My Newspaper Columns
We're just a few weeks into the baseball season, and once again millions of Americans are admiring their favorite players. While most fans revere their hero's athleticism or fame or ability to command millions of dollars for playing a kid's game, I admire them for something else. I admire them because baseball players get one thing that nobody else does: baseball players get spring training.

Just think of it: Every year, baseball players get over two months where they can screw up, be unproductive, make mistakes and be total losers - and none of it matters! April comes around and the slate's wiped clean. They get to start all over from scratch.

That's the problem with our lives: there's no spring training! Everything counts. You make a mistake, that's it - you're toast! Written off. Dismissed. Screwed. Wouldn't it be great if every year, say right after New Year's, we all got two months where we could just practice our life skills without any consequences'

For instance, you could go on a date with someone you liked, and if you really messed it up and made a total ass of yourself, you could just say to her, "Hey, look. I know I was a big jerk. But it was spring training! I haven't dated in awhile. I was rusty! I know my jokes struck out, and you threw me a few curves I wasn't ready for, and when I was up at your apartment and I tried to get to second base, you threw me out! But it's early. I'm still getting in dating shape. Just wait till Opening Day. I'll be a great date!" And since it was spring training, she'd forgive you and go out with you again!

Or if you decided to invest some money in the stock market and the second you did, your stock took a big dive. Instead of fretting about all the money you lost, you could just call your broker and say, "Hey, could we make that a do-over' My timing was off That's why I made those errors! I just need a few more weeks of making really stupid moves, and then I'll be ready to make a big score." And your broker would re-deposit the money right back into your account.

Or if you took a new job and had trouble adjusting to the new corporate culture. Instead of being under a period of "probation," in which you were even more nervous and stressed than usual because you knew you were under heightened scrutiny, spring training would allow you to learn, adjust, and have fun while learning the rules of the game.

If we had spring training, we could hone our skills and not be under so much pressure to do things right all the time. We could take more risks, try a few new behaviors on for size and then, if they didn't pan out, there would be no repercussions. And if they were successful, well, then we could incorporate them into our playbook.

Of course we might also discover that we just can't cut it anymore, and we're playing out of our league. Then we could just readjust our sights and goals, without embarrassing ourselves. Now that I think of it, we could also use an off-season! Most of us get a couple weeks vacation to go somewhere - barely enough time to unpack your bags, relax and repack - and certainly not enough time to get seriously out of shape. But baseball players get about four months every year in which they don't have to answer to anyone. If they want to, they can drink, get bellies, stay in bed all day and be irresponsible or turn off their answering machines and pagers - and no one calls them on any of it - because it's the off-season! They can just totally let themselves go- and then in February, when it's time once again to roll out of bed and step up the plate, they can still screw up for two months and it's OK - because now it's spring training!

So baseball players actually get about half the year in which nothing they do actually matters. Yup, I'd say that's a pretty good reason to admire them, all right.

Being responsible all the time and having to always perform our best is not only ennervating, it's unnatural! All in all, if all this is good enough for Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, it's good enough for me. Let's give ourselves a spring training. Because sometimes in life, you're just not ready to play ball.