Opening Weekend: Overreactions & Impatience Abound

If this is you, then baseball is probably not your sport. Try pounding vodka and Red Bull while watching the New Orleans Saints attempt to kill people.

Well that was interesting. The Red Sox, Yankees, and my beloved Braves all started the season 0-3, leaving far too many fans running for the hills. Apparently, in a season that lasts nearly six months, everything is boiled down to the opening series. Being an Atlantan and having bared witness the Braves epic September 2011 collapse, it’s far too easy to be sucked into the whole, “the Braves were swept by the Mets to open the season; we’re awful and going to lose 90 games” thing. However, seeing the aforementioned teams (forgot to include the Giants and Twins who were also swept) plastered all over ESPN.com, SI.com, local newspapers, blogs, and just about every other medium out there, there is a very big question that needs to be asked: are we too impatient for baseball?

Baseball season used to mark the occasion where Americans could relax, spend a few less hours working each week, and spend a few more hours in front of the TV, radio, or more preferably, at the ballpark. The summer is littered with holidays and excuses for us to vacation, but times have changed. Not only are we having to work harder and longer to make ends meet these days, we also seem to have less patience for the things that take time to simmer. Folks these days would rather slam back a few vodka and Red Bulls, but have little time to appreciate a finely aged scotch, wine, or even a beer. We want and expect everything to happen almost instantaneously; from our food, success, entertainment, even sex. It must be now.

Sadly, baseball doesn’t fit into that category.

It’s a slow burn. Each pitch is a methodical dance between 3 people: pitcher, catcher, and the batter trying to figure to best the pitcher/catcher tandem. A real baseball fan, sits there, captivated waiting and guessing alongside the batter just what the pitcher is going to throw next. We wait for a bang-bang double play to get the pitcher out of jam, or the crack of the ball hitting the bat. We wait patiently, cheer, and hope that our team comes out on top.

However, it seems that we’re in a growing minority.

Sports fans watch Opening Day and much of Opening Weekend with a lot of fanfare, but once their team loses one game, or God forbid, three games, during Opening Weekend fans freak out, grow restless, complain, wish for football season to start, and no longer seem to comprehend just how patient a baseball fan must be. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Braves all started 0-3, but they’re more than likely going to finish this 162 game marathon above .500 and certainly not 0-162. Teams get off to hot starts and don’t stop. Some get off to slow starts and still manage to win. Recall the 1998 Yankees who also started 0-3. That team won 114 games and swept the San Diego Padres in the World Series. The Braves started 0-3 (at home no less) in 2003 after being swept by the Montreal Expos went on to win 101 games and finished in first place by 10 games.

What I’m trying to say here is be patient. Enjoy Opening Day, Weekend, and Week for what it is, not that your team can’t score runs or play well against a team almost every projects will finish in last place in the division. It happens. Better to be swept to open the season than be swept in September to miss the playoffs, or even worse, make it to the Promised Land only to be swept in the World Series (hey Braves fans, remember the 1999 World Series??).

The Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Giants, and Twins are all glad that they’re moving onto different opponents this week and can put a rough weekend of baseball behind them. Good teams do that. All the teams that started 0-3 are still playoff caliber teams, or can at least put up a fight. To further illustrate this point, the Baltimore Orioles started 3-0 this weekend and are tied with Tampa Bay atop the AL East. In their final spring training game, the Orioles lost to a community college. They started the bulk of their Opening Day roster that night.

It stings to lose on Opening Day and Opening Weekend, but it stings a lot less than watching the playoffs from home, instead of being in the roar of a stadium on a cool October evening.

It’s a new day, a new week, and the season is still brand new. Teams will win and teams will lose. No need to be impatient, or restless. And if that happens to be you, don’t worry, just tune into ESPN; I’m sure they already have a countdown to kickoff going for the NFL, college, high school, pee wee, and every other football league out there.

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