There's much to admire in Redbird Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith's and Anheuser-Busch InBev's campaign to make baseball's Opening Day a national holiday.
The Wizard and the Brewery are the right team to throw out the first pitch. No other player and patron in baseball history have been more closely associated with opening day traditions. Cardinal fans used to go crazy for Ozzie's season-starting acrobatics. They still flip for the full hitch of Clydesdales that trot onto the field each year, beer wagon in tow.
Ozzie and A-B argue, with considerable historical justification, that Opening Day already is a holiday. They point to a survey in which ten percent of respondents claim to have skipped work to celebrate the start of the regular baseball season. The Brewery, not doubt, understands that one works up a powerful thirst playing hooky. An Opening Day holiday, they say, only would make "official" what already is marked with a red letter.
Winning a place on the national calendar, though, is no small feat. An Opening Day holiday would have to break into a line-up that, today, in order, consists of New Years Day, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans' Day, our National Day of Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
The campaign is forward looking. The petition presented to President Obama refers to how "Opening Day is more than just the beginning of the season. It's a symbol of rebirth. The coming of spring. The return of America's national pastime. It's a state of mind where anything is possible... Opening Day brings with it the promise of a new beginning."
All of this is logical and correct. But the best chance for making an Opening Day holiday happen would be for baseball to reflect on what may be its single most potent weapon for influencing public opinion.
A big part of what makes the start of the baseball season so a worthy a subject for a one-day celebration is the importance of that which occurs during the six weeks that proceed it: Spring training.
No form of self-help or psychotherapy confers even a fraction of the mental health benefits to Americans that is associated with the simple physical act of pitchers and catchers reporting to camp. No pharmacological discovery, so far, organic or synthetic, produces so much as a faint shadow of soul soothing compared to the ambient background murmur of a sparsely attended pre-season game's radio broadcast.
The Grapefruit League, simply put, preserves our domestic tranquility. Exhibition baseball reverses cases of seasonal affective disorder numbering in the tens of millions. Many beneficiaries, especially from northern and midwestern cities, report experiencing a phenomenon on which they actually feel the warmth of the Florida sun on their faces when perusing preseason box scores and standings.
Should an Opening Day holiday be established, we should recognize it for what it would be: A second celebration of Thanksgiving.