Jenn M. Jackson is an assistant professor of political science in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and senior research associate in the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. “The United States has long used citizenship status and perceived criminality…
A National Pastime: Silent and Feeling Empty
Opening Day has long celebrated the optimism and resilience of an entire nation. For young, old and most assuredly at every age in between, the start of each baseball season brings enthusiasm, energy and a spirit of shared experience around the country, unlike any other event in its power to connect communities and people.
Through technology and myriad streaming options, today we can access historic games and relieve these memories as we think back to warm moments that have connected families, friends and our sense of civic pride. And we will connect today, in various ways around the country.
But today, we’re missing those spontaneous high-fives with random strangers, missing the ability to vocalize our boisterous support for our home team, and most of all, missing the chance to share the stories of the heroes and milestones of the game we love with the generations of those who mean the most to each of us.
We can reflect on what is really important during these challenging times, and hopefully be reminded that baseball and a national event like Opening Day IS what’s truly important in times like these: in the tradition’s ability to connect people, to build relationships and to share pride in our communities.
This feeling is unlike the 1995 season, my first year working in baseball, when labor strife postponed Opening Day by three weeks, as we bickered over what side was right and how greed could take away our game, in bemoaning the loss of our annual tradition.
Today, we are sequestered, we are concerned, we are fighting a war with an invisible and indiscriminate enemy. And yet, we are reminded today that hope springs eternal. It’s the cry of every baseball fan every March, as a new season begins with optimism raining from the rooftops, no matter our hometown team or ballpark.
Every baseball fan today should pop on a classic game, flip through photos of opening days past and cue up “Field of Dreams,” to remind us, as James Earl Jones so eloquently opines as the character Terrence Mann, that the one constant through all the years, has been baseball.
We should well up at the thought that America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers, erased and rebuilt, but that it is baseball that has marked the time, reminding us of all that once was good, and it could be again.
That same spirit should carry us today, as we navigate a shared global challenge.
Baseball will return, and Opening Day will once again allow us to come together as one, to sport our civic pride, and to connect with close loved ones and random strangers, like no other institution. And perhaps in those moments, we’ll share a bit deeper, scream a little louder and hug a little tighter those we will share with this unmovable force of American culture known as Opening Day.
Story by Brad Horn, public relations professor of practice in the Newhouse School.