“Baseball Fever” or a “Case of the Cardinal flu.” Excuses my mom, or really 90% of parents in St. Louis, would use to excuse their kids from school on Opening Day.
In New York City, I have often felt alone in my emotional connected and love of Opening Day, but now others are speaking up. Budweiser and Ozzie Smith have teamed up to try and make Opening Day a federal holiday. The petition, which necessitates 100,000 votes in less than 30 days, states that ““Opening Day is more than just the beginning of the season. It’s a symbol of rebirth. . . . It’s an American tradition, and it deserves to be recognized as an American holiday.” While I feel less “Americana” about Opening Day than others, I wholeheartedly concur with the notion that Opening Day is vastly more than the first day of the season – it’s a spiritual experience.
In college, I skipped class every Opening Day for four years. Since graduating college three years ago, I have missed work on only one Opening Day, but have been planning on using a personal day for Monday March 31st this year. While my obsession with baseball is already borderline crazy, my love of Opening Day pushes me to the edge. For me, Opening Day serves as the one yearly reminder of what this sport truly embodies: passion, unity, intelligence, and most importantly, history.
The baseball history books read like anthologies on American culture and societal change. This sport is not perfect, by any means, but its ability to adapt and change with the times, sometimes even ahead of them, should not be dismissed. And on Opening Day, when each team’s living legends are paraded and heralded, when fireworks adorn the skyline and fans inundate the stands donning either their go-to classics or their holiday-present newbies, history comes alive.
For this one day, every baseball fan has hope, joy, energy, and emotion. Every fan relives that moment x number of years ago when so-and-so did such-and-such on Opening Day. The day is as memorable for most players and fans as the final game of the World Series. I mean, hello? Hank Aaron tied Ruth’s home run mark on Opening Day in 1974. This year’s Opening Day will be 16 years to the day the Mark McGwire kicked off his record-setting year with a bang, hitting his first of 70 homers on Opening Day in 1998. And on April 15, 1947 thousands of fans wore “I’m with Jackie” buttons as Jackie Robinson became the first black man to ever start a professional baseball game.
I’m not sure the Federal Holiday initiative will work. Unlike a commemorative day, which can be declared with a simple resolution, a federal holiday must be approved by a vote in both Congressional houses, as well as obtain the President’s signature. Obama might love his White Sox, but I’m not sure how successful this venture will be. Some people might say that Opening Day is actually about playing hooky – it’s part of the fun of the day. Yet, for me, Opening Day is more like New Years. Yes, it’s fun, but it’s also a reminder of all things past, changes that should be made in the future, and excitement about what lies ahead. So even if I will still have to take a personal day for the rest of my life, I could never forgo the day the embodies, past, present, and future in the most perfect fashion. 34 days to go…