Leave it to Major League Baseball and its complete disregard for the concept of time to stretch Opening Day into Opening Week. Thus, there was that awkward moment when despite the fact that some MLB teams have been playing actual regular season games for the better part of a week, Monday was still hailed as “Opening Day” across the league.

 

Does the institution or romanticism of Opening Day even matter anymore, and if not, do we even care? It’s hard to say what exactly baseball is and what we want it to be in our current sports landscape. It certainly seems like an anomaly, and that’s the fundamental problem: actively following our nation’s pastime can often feel like an obligation, rather than a choice. That’s because the sport that treats a clock with the same disdain as Prince Fielder does a pre-game salad often has a hard time balancing its desire to wax nostalgic with its need to stop being the old man yelling at you for walking on the lawn.

 

I am one of the lucky ones. I inherited my Red Sox fandom as a birthright, and I take it for granted that every game and every year matters. A lot. Moreover, I get to love the game for the right reasons – my team is compelling and competitive, and there is an inherent belief that my life-long association with them has helped shaped who I am as well as my relationships with others. After three World Series championships in a decade, I almost feel guilty about all of the unprompted invective that my Boston brethren have unfurled upon a mostly unsuspecting nation.

 

However, that’s not really how baseball works anymore. It is true that fans of perennially also-ran teams will pack the stadiums on Opening Day, but in many cases they will fail to show up for the rest of the season. I’m not blaming them for not spending their hard-earned money on a poor product. That’s actually something I respect. But how can a sport survive if fans don’t even wait for their team to underachieve before they truly abandon hope? If the only thing it’s selling is the promise of a fresh start, but it tacitly acknowledge that the fresh start fantasy only lasts one game?

 

Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, one of the truly timeless ambassadors of the game, recently teamed up with a major corporation to start a movement to make Opening Day a recognized national holiday. This was a clear PR play, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. The whole campaign struck me as a bit hollow, though, because I was unclear if people should be laughing at baseball or with it. The sport’s Achilles heel is its hubris, its tone deaf deification of ancient heroes and sacred numbers. Asking a nation to take the game even more seriously than it takes itself seemed a bit misguided.

 

The sport already demands a lot of its fans. Just ask anyone who has to sit through four-and-a-half hour Yankees-Red Sox games 19 times a year. For once, baseball has a chance to make something shorter, rather than longer. To make it more user-friendly and embraceable. We don’t need Opening Day to be a holiday. We just need it to be a day.

 

What are your thoughts?  Share them via the comment section below or tweet me @endbadly.