The best things about summer? That's easy.
2. The weather.
3. Fair food.
Let's talk a bit about all three, starting with baseball.
There is no one specific thing that makes baseball the greatest game of them all (and, yes, I love football, basketball and other sports, too). It's the culmination of a season that makes baseball special.
There is no other sport that takes a hold of us in the latter stages of winter and holds on to us through early autumn.
The day-to-day grind of baseball is the wild card of its appeal. Football is basically weekend to weekend, and basketball reels us in once, twice, maybe three times a week. But only baseball demands our attention each morning to check the standings and the day's pitchers, occupies much of our time through the afternoon with conversation and punctuates our allegiance with another game most nights April through September. (And there are the month-long playoffs in October.)
A baseball season is unlike most other sports with the amount of emotional ups and downs. Whether you are a Cardinals fan, a Cubs backer or are loyal to the Indians, you can be assured your team will win one third of its games and lose one third of its efforts. It's what happens in that remaining third that makes or breaks a season, and that's where the emotional roller coaster and the appeal/charm of baseball come into focus.
In some ways, baseball is much like No. 2 on our list -- the weather. A stretch of balmy, 75-degree sunny days is akin to a week-long winning streak for the Cards, Cubs or Indians. A week's worth of rainy or inclement weather also is similar to an extended losing streak when Miles Mikolas, Jon Lester or Trevor Bauer are repeatedly pummeled by the opposition.
And for those who complained about the recent heat wave, let me remind you in about six months it's likely to be freezing, and the roads will be covered with ice.
In the late 1970s, when I was still living in Ohio, we experienced back-to-back brutal winters, and I swore at that time I could never complain about summer temperatures again. Forty years later, I have never broken that vow.
That brings us to No. 3 -- fair food.
I love county fairs, and not just because of the rides, tractor pulls or baby pigs. I love the lemonade shake-ups, corn dogs, steaks on a stick, pulled pork, popcorn, tacos, nachos, pizza, pretzels, hot dogs, hamburgers and most other things found at such events in West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri.
But if I had to pick my all-time fab five fair food items, they would be:
1. Elephant ears. (The fried circles of dough smothered in sugar and cinnamon.)
2. Sausage sandwiches. (Preferably the foot-long kind, but with minimal condiments.)
3. Philly cheese steak sandwiches. (Once again, easy on the condiments.)
4. Pizza. (For some reason, it simply tastes better at the fair.)
5. Lemonade shake-ups. (You have to have something to wash down Nos. 1-4, right?)