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Thoughts on Opening Day

Mar 31, 2011, 5:30 AM EDT

Flag baseball

It’s Opening Day. And as I do most Opening Days, I awake this morning struggling to place it in its proper perspective.

On the one hand, it’s a time for celebration and jubilation. After a long cold winter, our passion is back. And as so many have before us, we’re tempted to render it into purple prose. To hang red, white and blue verbal bunting from every facade and to offer odes to cut grass, bats cracking, hot dogs and organ music.

But to shoot the wad on Opening Day like that has itself become cliche.  Indeed, on this day — and extending through the weekend, I assume — your casual fan coworkers will be overly excited about the return of the game. Your local paper will devote prime real estate to it all.  Dilettantes of all stripes will come out of the woodwork to revel in what they will, for now, call our National Pastime.

But they don’t realize or appreciate or particularly care that the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. And that in no event is it a championship bout that justifies the Main Event Atmosphere that will reign supreme on this day. That the long haul matters and that the team that in the final end wins the war after losing every battle is more important than who wins any one game today. Today they’ll go nuts about the beauty of it all. But come August these baseball tourists will disparage our game as boring and out of touch with today’s fast paced world. Come October they will compare unfavorably to professional football.

And frankly, I have no problem with letting the philistines do it.

Let them bluster today and tomorrow about the grandeur of Opening Day. Let them have their F-16 flyovers and gigantic American flags on the outfield grass. Let them have their A-list first-pitch-throwers make their appearances and let them trot out that Walt Whitman quote that is, in all honesty, tired and likely apocryphal.  Even if all of this is, ultimately, beside the point and, indeed, antithetical to the point of the baseball season, it is harmless.

Because you and I, my friends, understand the essence of baseball. We appreciate that it is a six month work of art, and it can no more be captured in a gush of  Opening Day enthusiasm than the first three strokes from Edward Hopper’s brush captured “Early Sunday Morning.”

We will enjoy ourselves today, but we will not get too caught up in it.  For we know that baseball will be here for us next week. Next month. And on through May, June, July, August, September and October to keep us company. To be our companion on random Sunday afternoons and lonely Tuesday nights.  To show us that its true value is not as a symbol or a spectacle, but as a game. A pastime in the literal sense, not the metaphorical one it has become to some. Our lives will continue on, day by day, but night by night we will have our diversion. Our little fix that does not require us to set aside our lives or entire days like some other sports or hobbies do. Something that just hums along unobtrusively, always there for us.

But that’s not until next week at the earliest. For now, we will grin and bear the overwrought spectacle that is Opening Day. And to be clear, we will enjoy it, because baseball-as-overwrought spectacle still beats just about anything else there is in the world.  But we will also know, deep down, that today will be a little weird. And that we need only smile and endure until the heat blows over and we can enjoy baseball as God and Nature intended:Casually. Without much fuss. A drink to be savored and not chugged.

Until then, though: play ball.

  1. baseballisboring - Mar 31, 2011 at 5:44 AM


  2. Davidw7 - Mar 31, 2011 at 5:47 AM

    Cue Craig standing on a podium with soft music playing in the background and you have yourself a scene.

    I’m just glad it’s Christma….ermm…opening day!!!

  3. phukyouk - Mar 31, 2011 at 6:26 AM

    well said. play ball. let’s go !

  4. kiwicricket - Mar 31, 2011 at 7:06 AM

    After 2 different continents, 3 jobs, a natural disaster and a female trying to ruin my life….I really can’t express just how much I look forward to the start of the baseball season. HBT….don’t ever leave me. May your respective teams absorb and entertain you. Go well everyone.

    • kiwicricket - Mar 31, 2011 at 7:07 AM

      Excuse me, very well said Craig.

      • APBA Guy - Mar 31, 2011 at 8:25 PM

        Is OG hitting you up for wine advice? I’ll be happy to trade my CA insight for yours on AUS and NZ. My AUS faves are Barossa valley reds, particularly Two Hands and Yangarra.

    • Old Gator - Mar 31, 2011 at 8:15 AM

      A female who has to try to ruin your life hardly qualifies as a female. My first wife could do i effortlessly.

      • kiwicricket - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:02 AM

        Thanks Gator, I will keep that in the back of my mind. Ps….Only buy 2011 from Western Australia. Margaret River has some interesting Chard and Sav Blanc this year. (I think last time we made contact I was in the Rhone?) The rest of AUS is a disaster. Avoid. (Quite a bit of rain in NZ also)

  5. thelucasjj - Mar 31, 2011 at 7:39 AM

    I am going to picture you wearing blue and white face paint while riding a horse as you say this. Although I will leave out the skirt (kilt).

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:41 AM

      So…you’re picturing Craig nekkid from the waist down…? IMAGES!!!!! GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!!!

  6. RedHeadedBastard - Mar 31, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    Hell Yeah! Its about time Opening Day arrived! Play Ball!

  7. bcopus - Mar 31, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    Waxing poetic today. At 4:30 AM even. As long as you didn’t get the Glenn Beck tears it’s all good.

  8. Old Gator - Mar 31, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    Damned right. Let’s play ball.

    But for today, it was fun to watch Craig fill the ecological niche left empty by the untimely departure of Mike Celizic, whose classic opening day columns ought to be collected in a single volume. Just thought I’d invoke his memory today, because somehow, opening day just doesn’t seem like the same without him. Rest easy, Mike; looks like the yearly inaugural is in good hands.

  9. megary - Mar 31, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    “And to be clear, we will enjoy it, because baseball-as-overwrought spectacle still beats just about anything else there is in the world.”

    Amen, brother.

  10. bradlidgesmole - Mar 31, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    It’s because we realize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint that opening day has all it’s pomp and circumstance.

    Much like the start of a competetive marathon will have AC/DC’s thunderstrtuck playing as the racers line up at the start waiting for the gun to go off, we have f-16’s. The middle 10 miles has the fewest fans, fewest bands along the course, so it goes.

    The beginning is something to be celebrated, I love every part of it and embrace the hyperbole. Bring it.

  11. frankvzappa - Mar 31, 2011 at 8:43 AM


  12. loungefly74 - Mar 31, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    well said craig!

  13. yankeesfanlen - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    Great invocation Craig.
    Just to prove I’m not entirely un-sentimental

    • Jonny 5 - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:15 AM

      Damn you Len! Without even clicking your link, that song has been playing in my head for 10 minutes straight. I think I’m doomed for the day….

      • yankeesfanlen - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:23 AM

        Ah, the curse of the horsemeat-and-Velveeta is already sinking in. We’ll see you guys in October when we have Liriano and King Felix.

  14. guileless22 - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    I would have happily taken some baseball dilettantism in my morning paper. The Memphis paper still devoted 90% of its sports section to basketball. One little AP story about the Cardinals was at the very bottom of the front page of the sports section.

    • sportsdrenched - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:48 AM

      I can relate. I live in Wichita. And the Shockers are in the NIT Final tonight. Woo freakin’ hoo.

      Thank God for the internet.

  15. sportsdrenched - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    I get annoyed with the “event attenders” on Opening Day. But I also enjoy the attention baseball gets on Opening Day.

    It’s a day to celebrate the return of the game….even if it is a marathon. I have stuff I have to attend to today. But I have two games set to DVR. And on Saturday the crew and I will be Observing (partying) Opening Day like we do every year.

  16. bklynbaseball - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    Everybody raise your hands in the air, and let’s hear it nice and loud……..


  17. holliswatson - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    Fantastic post, Craig. And an “Idiot Wind” reference, to boot. Well done.

  18. redsfanmaryd - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    …and this one belongs to the 2011 National League Central division champion Cincinnati Reds. Waited so long to hear Marty B say that. Welcome back to blue skies, green grass ( soon as the snow melts ) and over-priced hot dogs, baseball fans…… PLAY BALL !!

    Well written, Craig.

    • remwi - Mar 31, 2011 at 12:59 PM

      As they should Mary if MLB respected tradition. From 1897 until 1989 the Reds (the first recognized major league baseball team) ALWAYS had the opening day game. They would normally open the day before all other teams, in recognition of their history and baseball tradition. This tradition ended with the 1990 season (although in that year the Cincinnati City Council changed the clocks by an hour so the game actually still was the “opening day” that year.

      Go REDS!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. redsfanmaryd - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Meant to say 2010 NL Central division champs. Maybe a Freudian slip : )

  20. umrguy42 - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    I get the whole “it’s a marathon” thing, Craig, but I like a little spectacle. I love to see the Budweiser Clydesdales going around Busch Stadium (I’m kicking myself for not setting the DVR for this afternoon, gah), and the pageantry, and having Stan the Man, Gibby, Ozzie, and the others all there.

    TOMORROW we settle in for the marathon :)

    • umrguy42 - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:54 AM

      Ha! Thank God for Time Warner, just set up my DVR remotely (had to create the account first, and call in for my info :D)

  21. jamie54 - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    LETS……GET IT ON!!!!!!!!

    • yankeesfanlen - Mar 31, 2011 at 11:01 AM

      Just for you, Jamie in Passaic, the Bomber DJ gives requests.

  22. phantomspaceman - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Said perfectly.

  23. spudchukar - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    Order is restored. Thanks Craig, Good Luck to you and your Braves!

  24. Richard In Big D - Mar 31, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    Tommorw (a result of a poorly fleshed out good scheduling idea), my son and I will be heading out to our temple in Arlington, as we have done together for each of the last 13 Opening Days. This will be his 14th consecutive trip to Baseball Mecca, my 36th. It will also be our next to last together. He is a junior in high school, and after next year, he will be off playing baseball for an entity outside the DFW Metroplex for the first time. As happy as was our first time to share this magical day together, our last will be equally sad. At least for me. But for this year, for the first time in the life of the perennially hapless Rangers, I will be sitting beside my son, in seats that, when last occupied, held fans witnessing a World Series game. It didn’t turn out the way we would have liked, but it happened, right here, to our beloved Rangers. It gives us hope that it COULD actually happen again someday. Remember that Cliff Lee wasn’t on the roster on Opening Day last year, either. We will get there at noon, for a game that starts at 3, so that we don’t miss a second of the pregame atmosphere: the throngs of media on the field during BP and warmups; the retrospective video of last season (artistically compiled by the greatness of Chuck Morgan) playing on the video board; the playing of the National Anthem accompanied by a full compliment of military/police/fire personnel; the flyover of some awesome military aircraft (which somehow makes us feel safer); the introduction of everybody in the Rangers organization from batboy to trainer to coaches to bench players to the starting 10 for the day, and finally to the manager; the throwing of the first pitch; then the game. Once the game starts, my son and I will ceremoniously eat our first hot dogs of the new season, open our first bag of peanuts, and he will have a Sprite, and me a Shiner Bock. Around the end of the second inning, we will leave the ballpark, and head back to his school. He is pitching against his school’s district rival, with whom they are tied for first place in the district. We’ll listen to the game on the radio on the way to school, with the words of Eric Nadel painting almost as vivid a picture as we have just witnessed. The outcome is important, because a good start is important. Today is more about the ritual. The beginning of a new chance to go all the way to the top. We almost made it last year. Wait till next year. Oh, wait, it IS next year! Stay tuned…

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