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Rescue me

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff April 7, 2009 09:08 AM

And here I was hoping to irrationally and meticulously break down the first 0.6 percent of the Red Soxí 2009 season. Whatís a day?

Itís clichť, for sure, but there truly is something special about baseballís Opening Day, a matter of rebirth thatís somewhat difficult to put any sort of definitive finger on. For all the emotion, time, and finances invested into Game 1, itís really no different than your average Saturday afternoon game in June. But while the latter brings with it the added benefit of soaking up summer sun in the bleachers, good luck finding anyone to accept an even trade on tickets.

You could go so far as to argue that Opening Day (we even capitalize it?) is about as overrated a sports day as you can get, this side of the Massachusetts 26.2 mile jog still a fortnight away. Unless youíre unveiling some sort of hardware or unfurling a title banner, isnít Game 2 just as important, and devoid of poseurs, politicians, and wanna-beís?

Need to see the bunting? Itíll still be there. Relax.

Not until all the pageantry has passed us by and the final score is in the books do we understand how drastically we overestimate the day. Only then, win or lose, do we look up from the attention, not to mention the receipts, paid to the day and realize there are a good 180 or so more days of regular season baseball yet to come. Someone want to remind that to the New Yorkers ready to regret the CC Sabathia signing?

But do we kick ourselves for taking the day off, rather than banking it for some midsummer matinee? Please.

Opening Day, after all, is an emotional investment. But it is little more than that.

Thatís not to deny its annual significance by any means. If spring training is a beacon that baseball is around the corner, so to speak, then Opening Day reminds us that warm days and late sunsets (or humid days and mosquito-filled nights, if you so choose) are not too far off.

We donít pay this much attention to the Celtics opener by any stretch, last November excluded thanks to the hardware factor. We virtually ignore the start of the Bruins season. And yet, both of those sports will steal the spotlight from the game which we waited to return for six months. For if Opening Day in Boston today is a party to be rightfully celebrated, the next few weeks, potentially two months, may treat baseball as it was treated in these parts a year ago, as a backdrop to not just one, but two potentially deep postseason runs.

The Red Sox on the back burner in Boston? It would have been a thought perished just three years ago. Itís the 80ís all over again.

Besides, Boston sports fans are a little more - shall we say - more sophisticated (or arrogant, you know, however you see it) when it comes to early season fortunes for the Sox. Remember planning the parades after those 20-7 Aprils of the past? We donít tend to do that any longer, do we? Success breeds knowledge (or, again, you know, arrogance).

Tony Massarotti wrote the other day: ďIn Boston, Opening Day is just not what it used to be. The Red Sox simply are not so desperate anymore. How they finish is far more important than how they begin. We know enough now to understand there is no real connection between the two.Ē

Nope.

There is, after all, no solid, concrete reason why Opening Day drives us all aflutter. And thatís why itís one of the best days of the year. For all the connections baseball has to our past and its place in Americana, the opener serves as a symbol still, be it of better weather ahead, the enjoyment of its timelessness, and the debuts of its new and future stars, ready to take the game into its next generation with the rebirth of hope. Even in Kansas City.

On the field, what happens is less than one percent important to any teamís future fortunes. Off the grass, itís Christmas Day (and a white one at that for some cities) for baseball fans.

Clichť, sappy, and overrated, it is indeed.

But itís also the one day when those labels though simply donít matter. Baseball is back to rescue you. Just make sure she understands this will be an open relationship up until school lets out.

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by eric wilbur

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