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It’s common these days to refer to Super Bowl Sunday as a civic holiday, but to me there’s no more significant sports-oriented festival than baseball’s Opening Day–just as there is no more spiritual sport than baseball, with its focus on brains and passion over brute strength, its deliberate, orderly pace, its absolute dependence on teamwork, its reverence for history, its unique traditions, foods, songs, and literature, and its combination of precision, focus, and statistics with improvisation, the unknown, luck, and sheer wonder.

Opening Day, more so in my mind even than the World Series, symbolizes the best about baseball, and the best of the human condition. The slate is clean, and hope reigns as the overriding emotion. Spring may not have arrived in every major-league city, but it surely is on the way. Last year’s last-place team can believe, deep in its heart and soul, that this October will see the underdog battle for post-season glory. The rookie can anticipate the glory of his first major-league year, the veteran can bask in the renewal of tradition and routine–the profound and the mundane. And the fan can soak it all in, enjoy, and dream about the season ahead, with a beer in one hand and a scorecard in the other.

The World Series is still more than six grueling months away, but today (well, last night fo White Sox and Indians fans) the quest to play in that glorious best-of-seven series begins. By then, the weather will be getting colder, and darkness will be setting in earlier. The players will be battered, bruised, and ready to return to their families. Some fans will have fallen away, disappointed at their team’s losing season. Others will be glued to their TV sets, watching pitch after pitch with baited breath.

Today, though, there are no such divisions, no such anxiety. It’s Opening Day. Another season is beginning, and with it our hope that redemption is just around the corner. Play ball!

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