I recently took part in my first Opening Day festivities for our Cincinnati Reds in beautiful downtown Cincinnati. It was 70 degrees, sunny, and the middle of a Monday. Our brutal winter was extinguished with an early spring day of long awaited warm weather. I’m definitely not letting bygones be bygones with Mother Nature as she’s had a real ‘tude the past few months, but even wet blankets can dry out on this day. America’s (former) past time was back and with that comes longer days and a nicer climate. It’s the kickoff to generally happier times.
I stood on the closed off street outside Great American Ballpark among a crowd of different races, religion and economic standing, but completely united in red and white. Okay, I admit that was really lame, but sociopolitical commentary served up a hanging curveball on this day and I couldn’t help but at least hit a single out of it (even lamer). It was good to see this unity. The previous few days before Opening Day we heard the local news report on two kids in separate instances being shot to death, the continued unrest in Ukraine, and of course the usual political finger pointing (which the public fittingly responds to with the finger). But on Monday the news covered the smiles, the arm-in-arm toasts, and the city coming together. Everybody was happy, at ease with each other, and rooting for a common cause. Simply put, Opening Day for baseball was a representation of the best version of us.
The majority reason for this is obvious: Everyone is on the same page. Agreement fosters peace, right? We have a camaraderie. We’re all Reds fans and we’re all hoping for a win. It’s the first game of the season. The pessimist and the optimist share similar hope because there’s yet to be any evidence to upgrade or downgrade that hope. The Reds are 0-0. Nobody’s better in the division and nobody’s worse. Every team is exactly the same. Opening day standings are like the crowd outside. Preconceived notions don’t mean anything. The deck’s not stacked for or against anyone there having a good time. Everyone wants to win and we’re all in the same boat, 0-0. And from there it’s universally understood that if you want to go to the game, the harder you work the better seat you have for the show. When you’re fair and understanding of others you tend to get along.
The effect of this unity was well demonstrated by the relative ease I had navigating through an overcrowded bar. People were far more willing to put up with the grazing human traffic and invasion of space than a typical crowded social scene. Being a guy, you typically run into a few other dudes a night who equate accidentally bumping into them with insulting their mother. Not on Opening Day. My inadvertent collisions with people nearly ended in an invitation to use their beach house this summer. I was almost made a God Parent twice. A stranger tagged me on Instagram with #bff #nofilter #blessed. People were polite (with a few outliers certainly noted) and people were happy. It was infectious.
You also have that tiny factor of not being at work when you otherwise would be. This makes people happy. It feels like playing hooky with zero consequences. You’re released from office small talk, Susan in the cubicle next to you who’s perfume smells like a grape fun-dip candy stick stirring nail polish and cat piss, the loud talker on the phone who uses the same “jokes” during every call, and responding to uninteresting comments with “exactly” because that word is great at abruptly ending a boring conversation. And even if you love your job, you like being outside on a nice day drinking beer far more. This is ancient truth. They call the hour after work “Happy Hour” – case in point.
I think about all the other happier days of the year: holidays, NFL Sundays, weddings… They’re all events that bring people together to celebrate a common cause…and they’re all events that involve plenty of booze. This reminded me of an answer I gave to a question my girlfriend’s sister asked us once: Why do we like to occasionally do shots? My simple answer was ‘because I’m in my twenties, I have no real responsibilities, and its fun’, but to her credit she is not one for simple answers. And I’m glad because I never considered it before, but I thought about it and came back to her with the same thing I’ve been alluding to in this post. Toasting to a drink with friends creates camaraderie and a bond. It brings us together for a moment and in that moment you appreciate each other. Nothing is contentious about it. Everyone at the bar is trying to have good conversation and a good time. And because we all were there with that common understanding, it’s a positive place to be.
There are plenty of good reasons we really can’t be like this every day (other than alcoholism and unemployment). Sometimes disagreement and conflict is good. But it sure would be nice that before the hostility and the venom sets in that we’re always mindful of the things that keep us united. That makes everyone more respectful and a hell of a lot more fun. The Reds first game of 2014 created a commonality. And when you have a commonality you have less resentment and more affability. We were all there for the same basic reasons and nobody belonged more than another. It was a happy cohesion. The best versions of us.