The Cincinnati Reds will take on the Philadelphia Phillies this afternoon to open the baseball season. The wait for Opening Day is finally over. And boy do we need baseball this year.
Baseball fans know that odd combination of feelings when the season closes out. When the Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Mets last year, it capped a great year and tremendous post-season. Even if you weren’t rooting for them, the Royals were a fun team to watch. But even during the excitement of the game, that feeling of dread crept in. Baseball was over. No matter how long ago your team was eliminated, you just wanted the season to keep going. For after that final out, you had five long months before Opening Day.
It’s been a rough time since the close of the last season. The political scene wasn’t exactly great before the 2016 campaign began, but both parties are in a race to nominate the most divisive candidates they could find. The media are in the midst of playing out their disturbing codependent relationships in covering these races, unable to control themselves or even realize the role they have played in turning politics into a circus of idiocy and corruption. Even away from politics the country’s having trouble coming together. Whether it’s movies, television, music, or hobbies, choices are many but shared cultural conversations are few. And then David Bowie died!
For some inexplicable reason, Major League Baseball keeps having official games before Opening Day. Yesterday there were three games. The Pirates beat the Cardinals. The Blue Jays beat the Rays, and the Royals, for old time’s sake, beat the Mets. But Opening Day is, by tradition, the day on which the Reds host their first game at home.
But with these three early games, something interesting happened. After weeks of fighting on social media about politics and other hopeless matters, people began writing instead about line drives, fielding errors, and the pain of losing to the Royals. People unable to hide their jealousy of the Cardinals rejoiced that the team had been beaten by the Pirates. And Cardinals fans, who love their boys win or lose, were just thankful that the season had begun. (Kidding — just fun to watch Cardinal haters get worked up.)
There have been a few other times in recent memory when people needed baseball. The most significant was in the aftermath of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks. Everything shut down, including baseball. It felt like forever that games were suspended, but it was only six days. And when the teams came back on the field, it brought joy and hope that things might return to normal. Here’s the great Jack Buck explaining why it was okay to resume playing ball, along with condolences for the victims of the attacks, thanks for the first responders, and a patriotic poem:
Baseball players wore caps honoring police and fire departments. When President Bush announced retaliatory strikes against the Taliban, his message was aired on the Jumbotrons. And his Game 3 of the World Series opening pitch in New York City was a perfect strike made more impressive by the fact he was wearing a bulletproof vest.
The 1989 World Series was interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake, which hit the San Francisco region. That was the year that both the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s had made it to the series. Both stadiums were damaged in the earthquake, which killed 63 people and injured nearly 4,000. The earthquake hit just before Game 3 was to start. The game ended up being pushed back 10 days.
Baseball survived two World Wars, the Korean War, civil rights battles, Vietnam, disco, earthquakes, 9/11 and Bud Selig. It can help us survive a political season during which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the frontrunners.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) April 4, 2016