It’s beautiful. Earth is not yet ready for baseball but baseball doesn’t care. That’s mainly because there’s a ridiculous 162 games that need to be played, and if we don’t start when a majority of the states are still escaping from winter’s grip, then things just won’t add up. So, America’s pastime is forced to endure the elements. The season’s journey occasionally begins in miserable weather, vacating most fans from their seats, reducing those who sit and watch to the truest form of supporters, those willing to embrace a cold opening day for their team.
There’s much to love about opening day. Mostly, for the fans, baseball returns. The hibernation is over and the season is new. Everyone’s record is 0-0 and there’s absolutely no way that some teams can be eliminated before the first pitch is thrown, right? Rosters are revamped. There’s hope within every organization unless you root for the A’s and then you can visibly see how little the ownership cares and wants to tank for a relocation to the Vegas desert. The hotdogs and beer and plastic seats are right back where they were. There’s the silence, the cheers and quick return to boos when things take a turn for the worst. Baseball makes its return and whether or not we are ready for it, the season must begin.
The beauty of opening day doesn’t lie in the game itself. What I find most attractive about the sport of summer’s return is how we forget about the beginning just as quickly as we remembered that it’s returning.
March has never screamed baseball weather to me. In Colorado at least, there have been a handful of opening days and subsequent games that are played in high-velocity winds, snow, sleet, rain, that weird overcast where cold weather never greets us, but it doesn’t seem to leave either. There are plenty of other teams that have to deal with not having a picturesque opening day. Imagine Detroit. Sure, the city looks sad enough in July, but in March it looks abysmal. Opening day for the Tigers must look like playing baseball after the apocalypse. And in Minnesota, most of the state remains sub-arctic until late May. Being a Twins fan is tough enough, but having to endure the last flurries of winter and watch your team collapse in the late innings should be labeled as a cruel and unusual punishment.
I tend to appreciate just how bad and miserable some of these opening days look. It’s a testament to the fans. If their team is out on the field suffering, then they must suffer too.
Fans suffering for the team that they live and die by is nothing new. Plenty of fans endure blistering cold fronts during the NFL season, so what’s the point of complaining about fans sitting through crappy weather on opening day? Let’s return to the number of games played. There are 17 games in an NFL season. Roughly, there’s almost ten times the number of games played in the regular season for the MLB. Maybe less games would be beneficial to player health. Maybe less games would solve a lot of other issues in regards to finance, vendors, all the other fun monetary issues that go on behind closed doors. But what about the fans? Is this what they want? Baseball in the cold. Shaking underneath layers of clothes and jerseys and still drinking beer. It sounds barbaric but I believe fans have endured these terrible conditions for long enough that some, like myself, don’t really want them to change.
Baseball is a sport of traditionalism. This means they refuse to change. The ruthless white-haired leaders who bow to Rob Manfred’s every wish like his own personal Gestapo would rather watch franchises fold and stadiums empty than adapt as other major sports have. And yet, this year baseball has undergone some serious changes. There’s a new pitch clock to help expedite the game. The shift has been neutered. The MLB wants to modernize while creating more action. The competition committee is doing this in favor of the fans, to create a more competitive sport, one that has always had a tendency to favor the rich teams, be biased in their ways and refuse to yield even for the most understanding of reasons.
I just hope the focus doesn’t return to the start of the season. The opening day. A staple of poor decision-making that has gone on for so long, it might as well stay the way it is.
Does this make me a traditionalist? Am I one of the old men yelling at the clouds any time change is implemented? I’d like to think I’m not, because clearly as someone who was born into rooting for the Rockies, nothing besides 2008 has gone our way. Beginning the season while the cold refuses to dissipate is something that I’ve learned to love. Watching these games, jammed into a hard plastic seat somewhere in the outfield, isn’t something I would label relaxing, but it is an acquired taste. Baseball is a beautiful sport and having opening days along with those first few weeks being bundled in with bad weather is just another piece of the game.
Baseball is nothing if it isn’t a refusal to adapt until the last possible moment. But opening day and the suffering that is often endured is just another aspect true fans seem to genuinely enjoy. There’s smiling faces underneath those scarves. Beers are still being pounded and hotdogs are necessary more than they ever were before. There’s something amazing about a sport meant for summer being played in terrible conditions. There’s joy in the misery, in those rigid seats, with the open air letting nature take its course. The cold will bite your skin and the Rockies may have lost the game by the fourth inning, but you have to know that around the corner there will be better weather and maybe, if we’re lucky, if Monfort falls from his ivory tower and hits his head so hard he realizes he should sell, there may be better days than these.
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar