Baseball is not my favorite sport to watch. It bores me — not always, but usually. It’s a slow game with a long season. Someone once said that baseball is a game you could play while you were sleeping. I think it’s too often a game you could watch while you were sleeping.
So make no mistake. When I say “Giants,” I mean the football team that plays its games in MetLife Stadium (NJ). But I have to agree with all the baseball purists that there’s something special, something important, something American, about Opening Day.
I have more patience for baseball during the playoffs, and on Opening Day, than I do during the rest of the season. During the playoffs, something actually IS happening. And on Opening Day, anything still COULD happen.
On Opening Day, everyone has the same opportunity to win the World Series. Everybody can still dream, even the biggest so-called underdog battling against the heaviest odds. Underdogs give us the best storylines. I still remember the injured Kirk Gibson’s impossible pinch-hit home run against Dennis Eckersley for the 1988 Dodgers — a team that the experts said wasn’t supposed to beat the odds-on favorite, the Oakland A’s, but did. On Opening Day, 1988, the Dodgers themselves were the only ones who believed that kind of victory was possible. And it turned out they were right.
And last year, the underdogs got the last laugh again. By September, nobody on earth (outside of the team itself and a few hundred die-hard Cardinals fans) imagined that St. Louis would begin this year by hoisting a world championship banner over Busch Stadium. All the “smart” money was on the Phillies. The Cardinals were 999-1 underdogs. And then they put together a great comeback and won it all.
Every year, as the baseball season starts all over again, we remind ourselves of stories like that and start assuming that anything is possible. Which it is.
Opening Day makes dreamers out of everyone. Opening Day is the time when you can laugh and remember how stupid the smart money can be. Opening day reminds you that this is still a country where big dreams, focus, and hard work can pay off.
Look at the Las Vegas odds today, and they’ll tell you that the smart money is against the Cardinals repeating. The smart money will also tell you that the Philadelphia Phillies are 11-2 favorites to win the Series this year, that the former Florida Marlins (now known as the Miami Marlins) go into the season as 22-1 longshots, and that the odds against the Houston Astros doing what we all saw St. Louis did last year are 200-1. But when the players step onto the field for the first time, the odds won’t mean shit. On that one day, everyone will have an equal shot. Speaking personally, I love Opening Day … because it always gets my hopes up that some new underdog will get started on the job of working even harder, capitalizing on even more opportunities, and disappointing even more experts than the last underdog did.