A few years ago, Major League Baseball messed with tradition.
Angry with the fact that the last day of its regular season, a Sunday, was being overshadowed by professional football, the league shifted the traditional “start on a Monday, end on a Sunday” model to “start on a Thursday or Friday, end on Wednesday.”
Sure, we saw some great midweek drama as the season ended, but Opening Day was ruined. Half of the league opened on a Thursday and the other half the next day. The traditional single game the night before Opening Day was also eliminated in 2011.
Opening Day, the daylong celebration of the start of baseball, had been watered-down and split in two. Needless to say, that change did not sit well in the baseball community, and Major League Baseball fixed its mistake before the start of the 2013 season. Opening Day was back.
Opening Day is typically the first Monday in April, though this year is the lone exception in the cycle with the day falling on March 31. A few weeks ago, former St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith helped to launch a petition to try and make Opening Day a national holiday.
The White House did not grant the petition, since ultimately, Congress has the final say over holidays. But Congress might want to take a look at making Opening Day a holiday. Here’s why:
Baseball is America’s pastime. “Baseball, hot dogs and apple pie,” goes the old saying describing American culture in a nutshell. Sure, we have Independence Day to celebrate everything American, but we do not have a holiday dedicated solely to our culture. Many foreign countries have cultural holidays that were essentially invented to celebrate the country. That is what Opening Day could be in the United States. Baseball has been slipping in popularity in the past decades, as it has been overtaken by football. Making Opening Day a national holiday could get the whole country excited about the game and potentially spark renewed interest.
Quick, how do you celebrate Columbus Day? How about President’s Day? You only buy a new car every so often, so every six months does not require a visit to your local Ford or Toyota dealer for a “GREAT HOLIDAY DEAL.” The point here is that there is no activity tied in to those holidays in the manner that activity is linked to Independence Day (fireworks) or Thanksgiving (family meals). Opening Day provides activity. With games all day long, there is always baseball to be watched. Some cities, such as Cincinnati, hold parades before the opening games. This practice could be extended throughout the whole league to provide a family-friendly entertainment option for those who might not be as into baseball. Minor League Baseball could also rework its schedule so that it shares the same Opening Day as the majors, so even smaller markets all over the country could have baseball in their backyards to watch.
Placement on the calendar and in the week
Think of where Opening Day falls on the calendar — at the end of March/beginning of April, a dead zone between national holidays. President’s Day is in the middle of February and Memorial Day is at the end of May. That is a stretch of three and a half months without a holiday, since Easter is not a national holiday. Opening Day would be perfect to break up that stretch and serve as the unofficial start of spring. The day could be used to celebrate the fact that warmth is back and the winter is over. Additionally, Opening Day is fixed as a Monday, so it could very easily be tacked on to the weekend and will never break up a workweek. It just makes sense.
I guess this is all a long shot, as it is unlikely that Congress would ever sign off on another holiday, especially one centered on sports. Regardless, Opening Day will always be a holiday in my heart. Go Nationals!!