A funny thing happened when I was watching "Opening Night" between The Beloved St. Louis Cardinals and the All New, All Different Miami Marlins: I started to forget. I forgot about all of Miami's shiny new baubles. I forgot about the publicly funded stadium and Jeff Lori's shameful exploitation of Muhammad Ali. I even forgot about ESPN's blatant toadying during their interview with Bud Selig.
I just enjoyed the game. By the time Kyle Loshe (of all people!) took his no hitter into the 7th inning (where it would end) I couldn't even remember that I HAD recent issues with baseball.
That continued through today; I was more interested in Strasburg (and Dempster's surprisingly great performance) than in Chicago footing the bill to rehab Wrigley. I was more interested in Prince Fielder than in the Red Sox' scapegoating at the end of last season. I want to hear Vin Sculley call a game more than I want to hear about the Dodgers' new ownership.
Opening Day is just one of those events that cuts through the bullshit and gets you right back to the sport. I don't mean that it "lives up to the hype" or "makes the bullshit worth it"; I mean that once that first pitch leaves the pitcher's hand, the hype is irrelevant, the bullshit is set aside, at least for nine innings. Few other events in sports have that power, even though they all reach for it.
In principal, I don't think it's a bad thing. It really is okay to enjoy a sport in spite of whatever moral compromises the people running the sport may have made. If it's not, then you pretty much have to give up the sport, because there's ALWAYS going to be ways that the people making it happen fail us. And I just don't think that sports fans have to choose between having a social conscience and enjoying a game. Indeed, this blog is, in a lot of ways, about keeping both of those ideas in your head at once (it helps that a lot- I might even say most- of the reactionary bullshit around sports actually DETRACTS from the games themselves).
But, at the same time, the major leagues and organizations certainly count on events like Opening Day to make you forget about their lingering issues. Major League Baseball would certainly appreciate it if you focused solely on Clayton Kershaw's flu and didn't think about the growing problem with alcoholism. Fortunately, history shows that this doesn't work all that well; at best, the major sports actors buy themselves a week's distraction from bad behavior. But still, it complicates our role as fans.
That being said, there's nothing wrong with enjoying a good game, so long as we remember the bullshit when it's over. So enjoy Opening Day. We'll get back to work tomorrow.