As long as I can remember this happening, I’ve never liked the day off after Opening Day. I can only imagine it’s a way to maximize TV revenues by making sure the Opening Day moments in Boston, New York, and the LAs are exclusive, non-competing events. All this day-off does is amplify the hope or fear generated throughout the winter. Almost every team loses to end a season: either they lose the playoff chase or they lose a heart-breaking series in October. Of course there’s that one team that does win. For those fans winter is a time of realization and joy. But for everyone else winter follows loss. And loss does this amazing thing that winning doesn’t do: it stokes the imagination.
Imagination is good. But imagination is also the playground of projection. As humans, it can be argued that we tend to project our inner condition on all that we encounter in life. In other words, we see ourselves in everything. All that is around us – people, institutions, baseball teams – start to take on the characteristics we hold for ourselves. Confident people tend to trust their neighbors. Depressed people see places like schools as hopeless pitstops on a meaningless road to death. Deceitful people see churches and charities as scams looking to take your money. The list of examples can go on and on. Yes, losing sparks our imagination, but our imagination simply overlays our sense of self onto the possibilities that ‘next year’ holds for our favorite baseball team.
Opening Day brings reality. Opening Day announces the start of the marathon. With former stars and grand entrances, our teams get back onto the field to give it another go. The games start and our imagination is put to the test. If you believe the psychology of it, our very sense of self is put to the test. And for Pirates fans, our egos are validated or refuted by the men in black and gold.
But here’s the magic of it… If we’re generally well-adjusted, happy people and our sense of the world is that it is generally a good place, we set ourselves up for some grating dissonance when the Pirates lose. We may hold out for a while with a hearty get’m-tomorrow attitude. But over the long haul, the losses may teach us that the outer reality is inconsistent with our inner confidence. But that’s just the dark side.
If we’re on the other end, we’re the one who generally sees the shit in life. If we’re the person that interjects a yeahbut into every hopeful projection or a ‘reality check’ for every dreamer, we have the opportunity to completely change our lives every spring.
Undoubtedly, the naysayers predict horrible ways of losing every year. Or even worse, they predict mundane, lifeless ways of falling short on the baseball field (as they must for themselves in their daily lives, as well). But then the team wins. What do the rally-killers of life do then? How do you explain it when the team that really sucks (and probably hates its fans) wins? Really, how do you account for the good things that happen to the projections of our inner hatred? (Watch out – because if it keeps happening, it might just change your whole outlook on life.)
But that’s not today’s Pirates fan, right? I mean, we all get that the team is different now. This team’s a winner and the front office ‘gets it’. So we’re all predicting a modest 86-win season that may or may not earn a Wild Card spot depending on the competition. It’s a safe bet for most. Sure, some of the deep self-haters are hanging onto the validation that losing brings and declaring last year a fluke – we’ll be back to 70 wins in no time. Other, more Pollyanna types fully expect a trip to the World Series. But for most of us, we may see a small step back in 2014 on an overall forward trend that should include a couple postseason runs in the next five years – maybe even a deep one. It’s a safe bet.
But what if you’re like me and you’re too stupid to doubt? What if you’re generally happy about things – or happy about baseball, at least – and you think: hell, they could just keep winning. Maybe all winter, you largely ignored all the analysis about AJ Burnett and the time tables for Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco. Maybe you walked blissfully by iced over snowbanks content with the knowledge that the Pirates will do it again this year. Yep, the Pirates are a playoff team and sure, there will be ups and downs, but it’ll all work out in the end.
If you’re that person, then the day off after an Opening Day win is the playground of even more absurd imagination. It’s the day we can kick around images of champagne soaked unis and World Series trophies. Heck, we can even imagine perfection.