The Opening Day Experience

The only real way to open any column, article, or blog post this week is to simply state the obvious: the baseball season has started. The St. Louis Cardinals are playing baseball. What else matters right now?

As one of the millions of baseball fans who did not have a ticket for a game on Opening Day but still regards the event as a national holiday, I took some time off work to properly observe, enjoy, and reflect.

My Opening Morning began with breakfast at a local diner with four of my friends. Even though we had no intention of actually going to the ballgame, we each had baseball memorabilia on. Everyone we interacted with asked if we were excited about going to the game, or wished us a good time at Busch Stadium. We politely told them in fact we were not going to the game, but planned on watching it at a friend’s house. Is it strange to wear jerseys, shirts, hats, and jackets of your favorite team just to watch the game on TV? Not for Opening Day, it isn’t.

We watched two games, actually. ESPN broadcast the Detroit Tigers-New York Yankees game, and then we switched over to the Cards-Padres in time to catch the pre-game ceremonies. Throughout the day we watched baseball, ate, drank, played cards, and had an all-around great day in a garage in Belleville, IL. It sure beat working all day.
Friday was an off-day for the Cards, but the Chicago Cubs had their Opening Day set for the afternoon. I had already made plans with my buddy who, for the purposes of my various blogs and writing endeavors, I have given the moniker Scott the Cubs Fan. If there’s anyone in my life as interested, educated, and…well…obsessed with baseball as I am, it’s Scott the Cubs Fan. We chose a local sports bar & grill in which to set up shop and enjoy another Opening Day (Scott was in attendance for Cards Opening Day the day before). We ate, had a couple of beers, and watched baseball again. I could do this every day and never get tired of it.

Of course, I’m not a Cubs fan and he’s not a Cardinals fan. But I maintain a true baseball fan can sit through and enjoy watching any two teams do battle, especially the first game of the year. For a Cardinals fan like me, Opening Day normally signifies the confident hope that the team will win the division and have a shot at making the World Series. For a Cubs fan like Scott, the hope may be there but the reality of the heartbreak Cubs fans have endured for over a century tends to keep the true confidence at bay. Baseball fans can vary their stances from month to month or game to game as hopers, dreamers, skeptics or cynics. But one truth unites us all on Opening Day, whether you’re a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, or any team: we’re all the exact same distance from the World Series on day one.

Now I realize both the Cards and Cubs dropped their openers at home. Throw in your clichés about the length of the MLB season here. But that doesn’t diminish the overall meaning of what we just experienced. It is baseball season, friends. Forget the harsh winter; spring is here. Opening Day might as well be New Year’s Day, because I feel like 2011 has finally started.

Chris Reed is a freelance writer who also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and at Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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