Well Brewers fans, we made it.
It’s Opening Day. Today, and pretty much every day into November, we have real-life meaningful baseball. With the regular season beginning, our reasons to love Opening Day have to come to and end. Our final reason to relish in this occasion is tradition.
I chose this as the finale because it neatly wraps up everything else we were talking about. Baseball is tradition, plain and simple, and Opening Day is the foundation of it.
The bunting that wraps up all the stadiums today, the ceremonial first pitches, flyovers, fireworks, and National Anthem celebrations all connect baseball’s present with its past. It serves as a reminder that this game we love to watch is not just a game (at least for a day) – it truly is a National Pastime. It means something to everybody who takes part in it. It might be as simple as the start of spring for some – for others it might be worth a whole lot more.
For me, I have but two traditions. The Bet – my father and I wager a meal around whether the Brewers will beat the Cubs in the division standings – and a pledge to not do whatever it is I’m supposed to do as an adult and watch the game instead. Everyone has to have some kind of tradition around Opening Day, whether they realize it or not.
In Cincinnati it is as close to a holiday as any one sport can get. For Chicago fans, it’s another Next Year. For Boston and New York fans it’s another brick on an illustrious foundation. For Milwaukee fans it’s another chance to prove everybody wrong.
It also marks one time of the year for people like me to indulge in the sappy and romantic aspects of the game. For the rest of the season, it will be all numbers and opinions and speculation. It will be trying to predict performance of players like Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez. It will be spent trying to defend Kyle Lohse and John Axford to those who don’t believe in them. It will be the business of covering the Milwaukee Brewers.
Not today. Today is about the pomp and circumstance. It’s about the optimism. It’s the beginning of the great year-long debate. It’s fresh and new and poetic and all of that sappy stuff. We need at least one day like that.
One moment in the season when we can take off our pessimistic attitudes and just swim in the excitement and tradition of baseball. There’s going to be plenty of opportunities to gripe and bitch about this team – there will be plenty of times to debate the merits of Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart. There will be plenty of times to complain about umpires and All-Star snubs and the grind of the regular season. Not today, however. Today is all about the game itself.
Because the game itself is tradition, even if the tradition is shifting before our eyes. The Astros and the Rangers began manufacturing their new rivalry yesterday. Interleague Play is now opening up the season. Pitchers batting are slowly becoming a thing of the past. And all of this is OK, because the grand tradition of baseball isn’t in the fact that it’s unchanging, but that it always shifts with the society that loves it. It is a living member of out society, at times more an idea than an actual sport. If that weren’t case, why would we have parades in honor of baseball’s first game? Why would we put so much energy into a child’s game? Why would we care so much about our rituals, or put so much time in teaching the rules (written and unwritten) to our friends and spouses and children?
The simple act of being a baseball fan is a tradition that many take seriously. We all have our personal cheers, our superstitious rituals, our daily stops for news and information. We take part in baseball almost as religious zealots. And the game continues to reward us for our patronage.
So, whatever tradition that you have for Opening Day, enjoy it. Relish in it. Opening Day only comes around once a year, and it’s one of the last chances you get to be a sap about baseball. I know we’re doing just that. But we can’t help it: we love Opening Day.