For those of you who know me, you know that I love ESPN. Recently, I've made a big deal about discovering the wonders of the Food Network and rediscovering the History Channel, but still I love ESPN. All of them. And, as they continue to add more and more of them, I shall love those as well. However, I have a bone to pick with the people at that wonderful place where professional athletes and sports broadcasters mingle like old pals. And this is it: ESPN, please stop with the opening night baseball game on that Sunday.
Try as you might, ESPN, Major League Baseball's Opening Day is on Monday (it used to be on Tuesday, but that's a different story). The point is that your attempts to make your own "opening day" are ruining one of the things that makes baseball so special. And what is that, you ask? Tradition.
Yes, tradition. In the age of post-steroid-era baseball and the NFL's sheer dominance of American sports fans, baseball has very little left that it can claim as its own.
I love Sunday Night Baseball. And really, I do love Jon Miller and Joe Morgan (no matter what my friends say about you, Joe, I got your back). But Opening Day belongs to the Reds. It's tradition.
The Reds, you ask? Yes, the Reds (and this is coming from a die-hard Cardinals fan). The Cincinnati Reds were Major League Baseball's first professional franchise. Started in 1882, the Reds (then the Cincinnati Red Stockings) joined the National League in 1890. For decades, the Major League Baseball season would begin with the first pitch being thrown by a Cincinnati Reds' pitcher to a visiting batter on an afternoon at the beginning of April. The Reds were (and still are) the only team in baseball guaranteed to open the season at home with a day game every year.
Opening Day is about pride and pageantry. Every baseball fan has reason to hope that the coming year holds good things for their team. The best pitchers face the best lineups all around the league. Even minor league, college, high school, and little league baseball teams celebrate opening days at the start of their respective seasons. My former little league always kicked off the season with a parade around the Hikes Point area of Louisville. Streets were blocked, fire trucks led the way, fans cheered, and baseball players from age 4-16 were honored. In Cincinnati, Opening Day is an unofficial city holiday. They, too, have an Opening Day parade. Fans turn out by the thousands to cheer on their Reds and hope that this is the year.
However, over the last decade or so, ESPN has moved in and done their best to change that. The addition of the Sunday night opener was done to boost ratings and make some rich people more money. I have no doubt that more people would want to watch the Yankees and Red Sox play than to watch the Reds play anybody, but that's not the point. Mercifully, Major League Baseball stopped scheduling those silly opening series in places like Puerto Rico, Japan, and Mexico. I'm all for spreading the game worldwide and what-not, but still. MLB wised up, so it's your turn ESPN.
I applaud you for showing the Reds on national television yesterday (although, I'm not sure how much of that was out of respect for the tradition or because there was a guy named Pujols in the opposing dugout). But, come on. Give baseball back it's tradition. Go with the baseball purity over the prosperity.