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Once upon a time, Opening Day carried so much weight. It was a day that I likened to Christmas. We would play an early round of golf and then head downtown for lunch and adult beverages down at the Wharf Rat, Sliders or Pickles or all of the above. Then there was the game followed up by post game celebrations (regardless of the outcome) and then the NCAA Menâ€™s Basketball Championship Game.
What a day!
The game time temperatures have varied on opening day about as much as the players that comprise the Oâ€™s bullpen. Snow has affected some opening games as has cool crisp weather and at times summer like conditions. Welcome to April in Baltimore.
Unfortunately things have changed. Baseball has changed. The sports landscape in Baltimore has changed.
For 12 seasons baseball was the only game in town. The Orioles became the apple of our collective eye. When the Colts left Baltimore, the Oâ€™s had just won the World Series opening the door to a shift in our cityâ€™s sporting preference.
And then one day the Ravens arrived.
Early on the Ravens struggled but it didnâ€™t seem to matter as much. We were honeymooning with the purple and black while the Orioles fed our competitive appetites with post season appearances in â€˜96 and â€˜97. In 1998 the Orioles began to struggle. Not only did they fall from playoff contention, they failed to play .500 baseball, a trend that has continued for nine consecutive seasons.
The Ravens were there to give us a cushion and help to break the cityâ€™s fall from grace in the world of sports. The nest of the lofty perch atop Baltimoreâ€™s sports universe became that of the Raven.
Losing has hurt the Orioles yet there have been other factors that have contributed to the franchiseâ€™s downward spiral. The game itself has been marred by labor discord and lately the abuse of performance enhancing substances which has tainted the gameâ€™s history. And then of course there is the Oriolesâ€™ answer to Robert Irsay — Peter Angelos.
These developments paralleled with the Ravens success as well as that of the NFL places Major League Baseball a distant second in the sporting consciousness of Baltimoreans. And the youth have taken notice.
Sparked by a society that demands instant gratification and is characterized by children who crave high speed and highly interactive stimulation which is all too happily fed by modern technology, todayâ€™s youngsters find baseball to be quite boring. Consequently the level of play on Americaâ€™s sandlots has fallen dramatically which invites the influx of foreign players that weâ€™ve seen in MLB.
Baseball is no longer Americaâ€™s pastime.
Opening Day is no longer what it once was.
Iâ€™ve been asked to join a few groups and head on down to the Yard today to take in the game and absorb the atmosphere. Years ago I would have jumped at the opportunity. Today, itâ€™s too cold or too crowded or thereâ€™s too much traffic or thereâ€™s nowhere to park and I donâ€™t want to be hamstrung by bus transportation and while a cab could be an option maybe I wonâ€™t be able to catch one and by 6:30, itâ€™s really going to be cold.
Excuses, excuses, excuses.
I never used to make excuses to NOT go to Opening Day. I used to make excuses to not go to work. Now Iâ€™d rather work.
Whatâ€™s happened to Opening Day?
What has happened to baseball?
Thank God for the Ravens and the National Football League.