Again, the Major League Baseball post-season is here, a month full of too-late start times, unnecessary off days, bone-chilling temperatures and other annoyances that have cluttered an otherwise special occasion.
It's an intriguing cast of characters, too. There's Texas and Cincinnati, back after long absences from October. The Rangers have emerged from bankruptcy and actually know how to pitch, while the Reds have a wonderful young cast - but its fans are skeptical that they'll stay in a modest market like Cincy.
Minnesota is here, again, the Twins having moved outdoors to Target Field and perhaps due to cash in after a decade of good behavior and better baseball. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, flourishes in sad obscurity and, yes, there's the Yankees around to try and spoil everyone else's fun.
My sense, though, is that all of them are playing for second place, and that it's difficult to imagine anyone other than the Philadelphia Phillies on top at the end - which makes sense, because they're poised for entrenchment as baseball's latest dynasty.
Yes, a baseball dynasty in a city that grew very, very used to seeing meaningless games from May onward for decades. True, Connie Mack's Athletics had great spurts (1905 to '14, 1929 to '31), but then Mack sold off his stars and it turned ugly at Shibe Park until the move to Kansas City.
The Phillies stayed, and for a long time that wasn't a positive. Try 35 years between pennants from Pete Alexander's time in 1915 to the Whiz Kids, then another 30 years before the aging Michael Jack Schmidt Phils, in their 98th try, finally won it all over Kansas City.
Even the good times carried dark clouds, from the utter disintegration in September 1964 that Gene Mauch never got over to the playoff misses of the late '70s to the 1993 World Series and that time Joe Carter met Mitch Williams.