Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Opening Day: A Worthy Tradition, An Important Day, A True Misnomer

I looked at my spirited co-worker, dressed in his orange button down shirt, black pants and San Francisco Giants tie on Monday, April 3 and smiled. Brian wanted his students to remember a day baseball fans relish. He wanted everyone to know it's Opening Day. Only it wasn't...or it was....kind of...not really...? 
On Sunday, April 2, I listened with delight as the Giants (Hall of Fame) announcer Jon Miller came back on the air once again. I found myself expending an undue amount of mental and emotional anguish as my team had the lead and then blew it—twice. The gap between the end of the 2016 and the beginning of 2017 suddenly felt very small. I could hardly believe that the new season was underway. 

And yet, I felt conflicted as other media outlets described Monday—not Sunday— as Opening Day.  Hadn't I just heard the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd the day before? CBS Sports said
Major League Baseball got underway for 2017 on Sunday with a trio of games, but Monday is still technically known as “Opening Day,” as the other 24 teams all played their first game of the season.
I am not sure how or why Monday is, or was "technically" known as Opening Day when the games played one day prior, count toward the regular season total. They were not marketed or promoted as "pre-season games." For all intensive purposes, they were the first game of the 2017 MLB season. Ergo, they were played on Opening Day—right?!. And what I find even more curious, is that the Giants and the Diamondbacks had Monday—again, technically known as Opening Day—off. What gives?

Today we have many iterations of Opening Day. We have the first games of the regular season, we have the official Opening Day, Opening Night and for those teams who begin the season on the road, we have the Home Opener. I suppose there's a Home Opener day game and one for a night game too. Sounds a bit like a circus...which might be an appropriate analogy, given that the Greatest Show on Earth convened for one final show in Washington DC earlier this month. 
This is a wonderful feeling. Owning the WS title ALL YEAR

Though dubbed "America's past time" there are many forces at work to suggest baseball may not always be. For example, the majority of fans who watch baseball regularly are men over the age of 55.  The game has made efforts to keep fans engaged; it has responded and evolved, with increased sensitivity to how long games often take. 

Hall of fame catcher, Yankee legend and true sage, Berra  Yogi Berra quipped "If people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them." But the truth of the matter is—they do come out, and they should! Today's fans are blessed with yards and athletes worth seeing. Teams that were once cursed are winning championships and Game 7s in the World Series have never been so epic. I sincerely believe that fans return to the ballpark, April through yes, late October because of the story that they tell about their experience. Baseball carries a narrative like no other sport. Indeed, that narrative has enabled fans to learn about baseball's rich history; it has endeared them to this game's wonderful traditions. Baseball, a truly American game offers a meaningful chapter, a poetic verse to this young country's own testimony.

History is passed down and through story telling, tradition, symbols and rituals. When we compromise an event like Opening Day, a day that is rife with traditions like the President throwing out the first pitch, bunting inside and outside the Yard, a special ceremony on the field, the raising of a World Series banner (thank you 2010, 2012, 2014 Giants!), we lose part of our history....part of our story...and part of ourselves. 

President Taft was the first US President to throw the high heat, before a Washington Senators game.
William O'Malley states "The first step toward wisdom is to call a thing by its right name. Then you'll handle it as it deserves.” This "thing" is a day, and there should be no confusion about it. It should take place like it used to in Cincinnati, OH. Why? Because the Reds—the Red Stockings—were the first team in professional baseball. It would be wise, dear MLB to let this ritual stand....not in Australia, not on an air-craft carrier, not on a Sunday, but on that first Monday in April. And when you do, please just say two words, "Play Ball!"

Photo Credits
W. H. Taft
Opening Day Logo

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