Opening Day Thoughts

A chunk of Major League Baseball started their 2012 campaign yesterday, with the remaining teams hitting the field today. While I can’t go into too much detail about how the games did on TV, the stadiums were certainly packed, as fans converged on their home town ballparks for Opening Day. It’s a day like no other on the calendar. It’s a day that brings you back to an almost bygone era in the United States. Fans put aside differences, struggles, feuds, and just about everything else to hear the roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat, and root for their home team.

While my home team started their 2012 campaign on the road, I sat in front of the TV feeling fresh, excited, and ready for the new season. Even with a 1-0 loss to the Mets, there is still an optimism about my Braves that almost every fan of every team feels this week. The flowers and trees are blooming, the temperatures are warming up, and fans are ready for the game that has defined America: baseball.

Some may claim that football has supplanted baseball as America’s Pastime, but no opening day in the NFL compares with the feeling baseball fans get on Opening Day. There’s more tradition and a stronger feeling of patriotism associated with the splendor of Opening Day. Heck, even the Empire State Building was adorned with red, white, and blue lights celebrating Opening Day in the Big Apple. Will they do the same for Jets, Giants, or Knicks? Only baseball drums up the American spirit in all of us as we hope our team is destined to be the final team alive in late October, hoisting that World Series trophy, and bringing home a championship for our fair city.

As of this moment, it could be anyone. The Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, and all the usual suspects could be there, or it could be the Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven’t had a winning season since 1992, or maybe the Tampa Bay Rays who continue to challenge New York and Boston’s dominance in the AL East. It could even be my beloved Braves, wanting to send franchise icon Chipper Jones into retirement the same way he entered the league, a World Series champion.

It’s the beauty of Opening Day. We’re all in it. No team is mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. No team sits a dozen or more games out of first place. Everyone is within striking distance of each other. All feel good about their clubs. Most teams are healthy, fresh, and rejuvenated after the long offseason and a good spring training. Like spring, Opening Day represents a beginning, the start of a life cycle. As the summer days wane, and the leaves begin to turn, teams will slowly fade away into the off season as only a special few remain.

But not today, for today is Opening Day and there’s nothing else in sports, or America quite like it.

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