01 April 2011

When Devotions Collide, or "What Sandy Koufax and I Kinda-Sorta Have in Common Today If I Really Stretch It"

The oddity of Friday Opening Day presents me with something of a dilemma. Every Opening Day since 1996—the first Spring of my first real career-type job—I have come home from work, plopped down with a couple of chili dogs, and enjoyed what remained of the first afternoon and night of major league baseball. It started almost accidentally, but the moment just stuck. Over the years, the dogs evolved from Sonic pick-up to home-grilled brats, the celebration time changed from an an early-evening arrival from work to an extended lunch break and/or just calling it a day early (I still refuse to acknowledge that ESPN night-before abomination as a legitimate starting point of the season), and the source of my viewing pleasure has evolved from the mercy of ESPN's national schedule to whichever stadium I wish to peek into via DirecTV's Extra Innings (worth every penny). Once, when the Mets had the honor of opening the 2000 MLB season in Japan, there was even a sausage-dog breakfast at 5 a.m. prior to heading off to teach 9th grade Physical Science (looking back, I'm not sure which part of that equation was more indicative of a significant psychological imbalance). Nonetheless, my little personal tradition has remained for going on 15 seasons now.

This year, however, I face a triple-whammy. First, the Mets open at the Marlins with a night game for some reason Bart Giamatti would surely frown upon. As it happens, I also have a work commitment Friday night, so right off the top, I'll be missing the first pitch of the Mets season. That's disappointing, but easy enough to work around, as there will still be plenty of other baseball on come lunch time, and the very least, even a certified Cubs Curmudgeon such as myself can appreciate at least the sentiment of Opening Day at Wrigley Field as well as elsewhere.

The larger problem is that not only do the Mets open the season on a work night, not only is it on a Friday, but Opening Day falls on a Friday during Lent. Gentlemen and ladies who may be reading this (according to the counter, I had negative-two page views today [*snicker*]), let me set the stage for this one. I'm a lifelong Catholic, largely descended from Sicilians and Acadians. I grew up an altar boy. My senior year of college, I was president the Catholic Student Association. I'm the godfather of my oldest brother's first child and three more adorable children in Jacksonville. How in the world do I in good conscience merge Opening Day chili cheese dogs and a Lenten Friday?

Sure, it's not Sandy Koufax refusing to pitch the opening game of the World Series on Yom Kippur, but it still sucks (and really, anyone who thinks eating seafood as opposed to meat of a land-based origin is a sacrifice never lived in the former Republic of West Florida, anyway). Nonetheless, the effect is still that of someone shaking up the snow globe world I live in for a couple of hours every April. I honestly haven't decided how I'm going to handle this one. Do I hold off on the dogs until game 2 on Saturday? Do I rationalize that any God who doesn't appreciate baseball and hot dogs probably isn't one with whom I want to spend eternity anyway? Maybe I can refrain from peeking at the score and crank up the DVR after midnight or just consider whatever time I get home as no longer being Friday (hey, don't the Jewish folks run things from sundown-to-sundown?). I really don't know.

Anyway, all that said, if you negative-two people out there have any long-standing Opening Day traditions of your own and/or stories of how they started and/or they were or nearly were disrupted somewhere along the way, I'd love to hear them.

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