By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Does America’s national pastime deserve a national holiday?
Well, Budweiser and Ozzie Smith think so. But as much as I love baseball, I can’t say that when it comes to establishing Opening Day as a holiday that I’m drinking Bud’s Kool-Aid.
For one thing, it’s far too cold.
On Tuesday, Budweiser – the “Official Beer of Major League Baseball” – and Smith – the official back-flipper of the St. Louis Cardinals – announced that an online petition had been posted at whitehouse.gov to make Opening Day a national holiday.
Active for 30 days, the campaign is intended to gain support for the holiday initiative before the start of the 2014 Major League Baseball season.
The petition reads: “MLB 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. You can feel the electricity in the air. Opening Day brings with it the promise of a new beginning. Every fan is in good spirits. It’s a day of celebration. It’s a day of hope. It’s a day that, for generations, has been looked forward to by baseball fans every offseason. It’s an American tradition, and it deserves to be recognized as an American holiday. Join us in our quest to make sure every American can exercise their inalienable right to celebrate the day those two magical words are uttered for the first time: ‘PLAY BALL!’”
In order for the White House to formally respond to the petition, 100,000 signatures are required. And as of Friday morning – on just its fourth day – it had already garnered more than 43,000.
So, clearly, there are people who’d love to get an official day off from work to hit up the ballpark for their local team’s Opening Day festivities. I don’t blame them, although, they must live down South or out West.
You know, where it’s actually warm on Opening Day.
A year ago, after 30-degree wind chills froze the spines of White Sox fans at U.S. Cellular Field on Opening Day, I wrote a piece titled, “Should MLB Avoid Games in Chilly Cities On Opening Day?”
And, really, it wasn’t just the weather in Chicago that was an issue. Out in Pittsburgh, for example, the Cubs and Pirates played in a 35-degree ice box at PNC Park. Meanwhile, up in Minneapolis, the game-time wind chills at Target Field dipped into the low 20s as the Twins and Tigers squared off during Minnesota’s coldest home opener in 50 years.
“No one likes playing in the cold,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said about that game.
And, fact is, no one likes watching baseball in the cold, either. Certainly not me. Because, as much as I enjoy attending major league games in person, I absolutely loathe freezing during them. Enough so that I’ve learned the hard way to be very leery about buying tickets for any Cubs games at Wrigley Field during April, when the weather often still feels like February.
And with this polar vortex-plagued winter that we’re still enduring in Chicago, I wouldn’t be surprised if it still feels like February at Wrigley Field when the month of June rolls around.
While no one can control the weather, MLB can control where it schedules its Opening Day games. And I argued a year ago that it would be wise for the sport to spend its first week playing games in warm-weather cities or ballparks with temperature-controlled climates.
Baseball didn’t listen, however, as for Opening Day on March 31, it again has the Cubs starting out the season in Pittsburgh, while the White Sox are at home to face the Twins.
Bring your parkas.
If Budweiser’s petition was eventually adopted by the U.S. government, it would provide everyone with a federally mandated opportunity to shiver at U.S. Cellular Field, which doesn’t really sound like much of a way to spend a national holiday to me. Although, if MLB was to take up my suggestion about only playing Opening Day games in warmer climes, there would never be an opportunity to celebrate this new holiday in person in cold-weather cities such as Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston and New York.
Neither scenario sounds perfect. But either way, I’d say that we already have enough federal holidays on the calendar. There’s really no need to establish another one just for baseball.
So my suggestion to Ozzie and Budweiser is this: Put your idea on ice.