Today is opening day of the baseball season, and stadiums will be packed with cold but jubilant fans. The outcome of the game won’t really matter, not in the context of the whole season. Teams will win on opening day but finish last at the end of the season. Teams will lose on opening day, but . . . you get the idea.
Opening days are symbolic and celebratory, and that matters. But as we get older the celebration gets muted by responsibility. The kids need picked up from school the same time as first pitch; you need to visit someone special in the hospital but you listen to the broadcast in the car; you have to work. The space your life used to hold for exulting over your team on opening day has been taken by other, more meaningful, things.
Awareness dims the opening day mood, too. For football fans it’s awareness about the problematic racial dynamics between its owners and fans and players, vivified by very real concerns over what playing the game is doing to the players. Baseball doesn’t have such an acute reality check for fans, but one has been gestating the past couple of off seasons about the underlying economic model of the game as players and owners approach another collective bargaining deadline. Plus, it’s hard to stay emotionally invested, as a grown up, in an enterprise that pays its most elite players hundreds of millions of dollars.
I will be watching opening day in bits and pieces, where my schedule (and the weather) allows. All things considered, it still means something.