By Richard Cuicchi | March 30, 2014 at 11:41 PM EDT | 1 comment
I know this idea sounds like a cock-eyed one to some people, generated by some nerdy baseball fanatics. But, in fact, an initiative spearheaded by Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, with the help of Budweiser, was mounted to propose such an idea to the White House. Over 100,000 signatures were collected for a petition, which was the minimum required to receive an official response from the White House.
Absurd idea? Maybe, but hear me out.
National holidays are generally reserved for people or events we want to honor as foundational to our country’s history and heritage. Over the years, I believe the game of baseball has been fundamental in promoting sports and leisure activities which have become integral to our American culture and life style. Baseball’s Opening Day is a sports tradition that’s been around for over one hundred years. There was even a time when United States Presidents routinely threw out the first ball in Opening Day ceremonies.
Opponents of this idea will argue that baseball is not the national sport any more, that we already have too many paid holidays for government workers, and that a baseball-related holiday would be a misuse of a long-standing practice.
Indeed, football fanatics believe baseball has been surpassed as America’s national pastime. If you listen to radio talk shows and still read a newspaper, you might come to the same conclusion. For example, in New Orleans, according to WWL 870 Radio and The Times-Picayune, the New Orleans Saints and LSU football are the only newsworthy sports, year-round!
However, as far as I know, “baseball” hasn’t been removed from the popular jingle which symbolizes some of the best traditions of our country, “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chrevrolet.”
Opening Day is indeed about tradition. For a long time, the city of Cincinnati was awarded the privilege of “opening the Opening Day” every year with a home game by its Cincinnati Reds, which happens to be the first-ever professional baseball team. For major league cities, it’s a common practice for fans to take off from work and school to attend the first game of the baseball season. It’s an event they plan for. Nowadays, many fans will even travel long distances to attend their favorite team’s Opening Day game.
Even in places where there isn’t a big league team, rabid baseball fans take a day off from work, or play hooky from school, and glue themselves to their TV sets or internet devices to catch as many MLB games as they can during the 10-12 hours of games are broadcast on Opening Day. Fathers and sons cook hamburgers and hot dogs, play some catch in between games, and (if old enough) drink a few beers together to round out the special day. My 35-year-old son and I still do that. I suspect we’re not alone.
What was the White House’s response to Ozzie Smith’s petition? Paraphrased, its message was, “while we are sympathetic to your request, it’s up to Congress to create permanent federal holidays.” Well, at least there wasn‘t a “no” answer. Maybe there’s still hope.
If someone on Capitol Hill thinks we need to restrict the number of national holidays, then I personally vote for dumping President’s Day and replacing it with Opening Day. After all, Derek Jeter, Clayton Kershaw, and Miguel Cabrera are more popular today than Presidents Washington and Lincoln.
Thus, since Opening Day has the historical and sentimental tradition already associated with it, why not officially recognize it as a permanent national holiday?
Of course, Major League Baseball would have to stop hosting opening day games in places like Tokyo, Sydney, and Mexico City. That’s just downright un-American and wouldn’t be fitting with an officially observed holiday!