It sure seems like everyone is more excited for baseball's Opening Day than usual. Maybe that's because Twitter makes every conversation seem louder. Maybe it's because every pretty good team is great again, except the Yankees and the Red Sox, and because, hell, the Cubs might win it all. Or maybe it's because this winter has been the one that refused to end — the season someone finally up and sued the groundhog, for crissakes — and because baseball is a sure sign that spring — finally, blessedly — is here again.
Except for a single game Sunday evening, today is Opening Day for Major League Baseball. This morning 25 players on 24 teams dusted off their cleats, only to get them dusty again this afternoon and into tonight — only to run and hit and throw it over to first, as the mundane became real again, and the sun rose and fell across the stadium wall. And there are plenty of things to celebrate about baseball's return for 2013. The Yankees "are a hot mess," as Yahoo!'s David Brown writes, not least of all because of the contract of Alex Rodriguez, whose menacing Instagram photo on A1 of Sunday's New York Times said as much about money and photography as it does about the fall of the Evil Empire. (That's trademarked now, by the way.) C.C. Sabathia's performance already today — the Yanks are down 4-nil to the Sox in the bottom of the fourth inning at press time — is already dragging fan expectations into the basement. Meanwhile, the Cubs! Oh, the Cubs. Oh, the fall of evil and the rise of joy. The Cubs are still pursuing their first championship 105 years on, and it's the second year for President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein in Chicago. Which could be promising! You may remember Epstein as the stats-obsessed whiz kid who broke the 87-year curse in Boston seven-and-a-half years ago, when baseball was making good on its Moneyball promise to overcome the steroid era. Now that we're in the strikeouts-and-parity generation to follow, there's new hope at Wrigley Field — if also old ghosts: None other than Steve Bartman, the fan who notoriously cost the Cubs a trip to the World Series in 2003 and was then run out of town, is reportedly at the season opener today.
This Opening Day is about more than Yankee and Cubs schadenfreude, of course. We need baseball right now. We've been hearing so much about guns and rapes and banks and wars and a new "culture war" that, well, it was nice to see some green grass and some sunshine this afternoon. And about that sunshine: Can we end this awful, terrible, no-good winter already?
The 2012-2013 winter will forever be known as the winter that refused to go away. The cold, blustery weather continued into the end of March, when almost half of America was still covered by snow, and long after that godforsaken groundhog said winter would end. Some people went after that groundhog in court, death penalty and all. Which was a little much, really, but it shows how badly we all wanted to escape the cold. This winter was awful! There was that snowstorm that buried Boston and New York, and the awful weather never stopped after that. It was pretty much cold everywhere, even in the unusual places out West, and it just kept coming and coming. It's been gray, dreary, wet and gloomy and we're all pretty sick of it. Those awful Game of Thrones fans and their constant screaming of "winter is coming," didn't help anything, either. Winter's been here since December! We know! We want it gone, for crissakes. We're ready for the sunshine and green grass spring provides. We're ready to wear shorts and drink iced coffees in the park. We're ready to pick the first flowers that bloom and jump in the last remaining puddles the melting snow pools at the end of our blocks. There's something about Opening Day that tells us — that tells our bodies, that tells anybody — that everything we love about spring is just around the corner, whether the weather reports says so or no. NBC Sports' Joe Posnanski said it beautifully Monday morning:
The other sports have their special features, but there’s something different about Opening Day. Winter breaks. The days get longer. The grass greens, the neighbors barbecue, Vin Scully tells us one more time that the deuces are wild – two balls, two strikes, two outs, two men on.
There's just something about Opening Day that helps us get over the hell of winter, freshly. Baseball delivers us from the clutches of cold and cures us of our seasonal affective disorders, instantly. Headlines today should be no different than those running on Opening Day in 1867: Baseball matters, always.