Gene Collier: Australia games make cents, but not sense

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For reasons unclear and probably even unnecessary, there is a concerted push all of a sudden by Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and the producers of the official beer of Major League Baseball to designate Opening Day a national holiday.

Where, in Australia?

They had better hurry.

Opening Day 2014 is just 24 days away, 24 days and about 9,500 miles, give or take a slow walk to the mound.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks will play the opening series March 22-23 in Sydney, another burst of baseball genius explainable only by the grow-the-game marketing wonks in the commissioner’s office.

Still, I know you are excited about this, and probably a lot more than is Dodgers pitcher Zack Cranky, er, Greinke.

“I would say there is absolutely zero excitement for it; there just isn’t any excitement to it,” Greinke told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “I can’t think of one reason to be excited for it.”

Australia now has surfing crocodiles. Does that help?

Baseball still considers Opening Day the first day on which more than one game is played, a feeble ploy to cleanse its conscience of the lingering guilt brought on by abandoning the traditional opener in Cincinnati. Since that dark day, the season’s first pitch has been thrown in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Japan and, soon enough, Down Under. Were we privy to the internal memos of the grow-the-game division, we might discover the next three openers are scheduled for Kazakhstan, Romania and Somalia, which is the only place the Pirates could rely on for national publicity until Clint Hurdle’s team won 94 games a year ago.

If you prefer to see the traditional opener for our national pastime settle down in the nation where it actually, you know, is the national pastime, you probably should be rooting for Smith and his petition to the White House initiative called We The People.

Any such petition that draws 100,000 signatures within 30 days is guaranteed to spark some kind of official response from the White House, though not with any urgency apparently.

It has been weeks, for example, since the petition to deport Justin Bieber to Canada cracked the 100,000 signature threshold. No official response yet, although my White House sources indicate it’s just a matter of crafting the final wording. Here’s what they’ve got so far:

“Don’t you see that we’re busy here?”

Sports-related petitions haven’t done terribly well at the White House, all falling well short of official White House response, including the one that tried to force the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire Tim Tebow, the one that wanted the Monday after the Super Bowl to be designated National Hangover Day and the one trying to let Ohio State walk away from NCAA sanctions so the Buckeyes could play in a bowl game. That last initiative was apparently taken off the website for some violation of the relevant protocols.

You mean they cheated at trying to get excused for cheating?

In any case, “Don’t you see that we’re busy here” sounds like a likely outcome for Smith and the brewery as well, because regardless of President Barack Obama’s opinion on this issue (he’s a Chicago White Sox fan, so there’s no way he could like baseball), Americans do not need U.S. government support to establish their national holidays, particularly when it comes to sports.

No one would argue that the Super Bowl is anything less than a national holiday, for all intents, and the NFL draft isn’t just a national holiday, it’s practically a holiday weekend. The big brewery cites a recent study contending that more than 22 million American adults admit to playing hooky to watch an Opening Day affair, but it’s not like we need an actual game of some sort to get our national slack on. People have begun to skip work to watch the NFL Scouting Combine, and it’s little wonder when you see some of the performances of the draft-eligible young people.

I mean it’s one thing that South Carolina defender Jadaveon Clowney, at 266 pounds, ran 40 yards in 4.53 seconds, but what was so amazing is that he did while on his cell phone.

The NCAA’s hallowed Selection Sunday is looming. That should probably be a holiday, since we seem to be searching for official validation, as well as Dejection Monday for teams who don’t make the tournament.

Are there any?

The NFL, you will notice, hasn’t teamed with any of its 100,000 advertising partners to make its opening day a national holiday. Probably because it doesn’t have to. But that might not be a bad idea. They could call it National Be Nice Day.

Don’t use the N-word on the field. Don’t belittle your teammates or their relatives via racial, ethnic or sexual harassment. Make sure all your guns are legal, and, if you do go jail, do not beat up any of your fellow inmates.

Sounds like a holiday to me.


Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com.

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