As a public school teacher, we’re allotted three personal days each academic year, and each year, I take off Opening Day for Red Sox baseball.
To me, and many other Red Sox fans, the day is something akin to a religious observance. In the 1988 classic Bull Durham—which I always watch a few days before baseball season begins—the female lead, Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) gives this pithy little quip in a voice-over speech at the beginning of the film:
“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones,” she says. “I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us.”
Currently, there is an on-line petition to The Obama Administration to make Opening Day a national holiday. Of course, I signed it, and of course, I realize I have a better chance of starting in centerfield for the Red Sox than this petition has of passing.
Still, I like the sentiment.
Much has been postulated and written—read the petition—about the beginning of baseball season representing a “symbol of rebirth” and “the coming of spring.” Admittedly, in many parts of New England, spring is still hard to fathom with two feet of snow on the ground, but the Red Sox will still take the field on Monday and baseball season will begin, regardless.
In New England, the long winters are one explanation to explain our collective fanaticism when it comes to anything Red Sox. The first pitch of the regular season demarcates the fact that we’ve survived months of grueling snow and frigid cold, and the warmer days lie ahead. For New Englanders, this isn’t just a symbol of rebirth, but a testament to survival.
However, the truth of the matter is that Opening Day has lost some significance for Red Sox fans in the past decade as the franchise has become the most dominant of the 21st Century baseball.
Prior to 2004, Opening Day for Red Sox fans not only represented all of the aforementioned, but it also represented something more existential in nature. It meant another chance at success for the Red Sox; and for those of us who internalize the game, it meant another chance for all of us.
For 86 years, Red Sox fans packed it up every fall, muttering under our breath, “We’ll get ‘em next year.” And each year when April came around, the possibilities of success were again galvanized. As long as there was the remote hope of the Red Sox winning, there was hope for all of us. Perhaps fans outside of New England were perplexed by our tears and apoplectic reactions when the Red Sox won in 2004, but they likely failed to understand what it meant to us as individuals, families and a region. For inveterate and cynical fan-base, it was an affirmation that anything was possible.
Since 2004, the Red Sox have run train on the major leagues, doing it again 2007 and once more last season. Maybe this is sign that we’re becoming complacent. I hope not.
Regardless, when the first pitch is thrown in Baltimore on March 31, this will not simply signify the coming the spring and the survival of another long, cold winter. Opening Day will bring with it the possibility that anything can happen and anything is possible. That, in my opinion, is something spiritual.
And that, my friends, is why I don’t work on Opening Day.