April 7 - Where is Opening Day?
Somewhere buried in the boxes of old clippings rest a bundle of stories penned by an ideological
romantic, swooning over the arrival of Opening Day. Every year the story would run in one place or
another, each time singing the praises of baseball and the full compliment of hope that came with it,
metaphoric or otherwise.
The ones in the college paper were so overdone with sugary sweetness that even a bee would have
been turned off. The ones on the internet were less so, but still were love-fests for the oncoming season
and the national pastime. And then there was the one which ran on the front of the sport’s official web
site accompanied by a photo of the park in Cincinnati at sunrise. How much more romantic could it get
for a self-proclaimed purist? Talk about hope…and promise…and love for the game.
But after exhibition games starting being played in the Major League stadiums, the first day of the
season turned into the first night, and the Queen City lost its status as home to the opener to places as
American as, say, Tokyo…love stopped being so blind.
This epiphany did not occur overnight but the buildup of the aforementioned, along with a bunch of other
mitigating factors, have finally, officially taken the mystique and aura out of Opening Day.
Are those gluttonous folks at the league office and in the network boardroom going to have trouble
providing if that force-fed Sunday night game, scheduled to appease the violence-craving demographic,
wasn’t played in weather more befitting a rugby match at an hour not exactly fan-friendly, let alone kid-
Baseball used to be synonymous with things like sunlight and a child asking for an autograph at his first
game. Not a darkened evening, not a fifth alternate batting practice jersey and not ticket prices
multiplying faster than Gremlins hit with water.
And what a novel idea it would be if every team actually had a game on the first day of the season. Why
did about half of the teams have an off-day on the first day? Imagine NASCAR telling half the drivers to sit
out the Daytona 500 because they were going to race the following day.
Maybe it’s too late to turn back and maybe gone forever are the days when it was at least half a game
(and only half big business). Maybe it’s the minority still out there longing for a time when baseball was
baseball, and not the product of a single-minded corporation. After all, TV keeps figuring out ways to put
even more information on the screen. The stands are filled despite the jacked-up, staggered prices.
Filled with people who just had to have the latest piece of merchandise, paying no mind that it looks
nothing like their team’s actual colors.
And of course, there are throngs in the thousands eagerly paying for the chance to stand and cheer for
those who cheated – not to mention paying for the cheater’s contract earned under false pretense.
So yes, that era of baseball innocence and romance is most likely gone for good.
But that doesn’t mean we have to like it.