Opening Day or Opening day?

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on March 31, 2011 – 1:20 pm

A few musings on Reds’ Opening Day and the differences between baseball and football.

That’s the first difference.

Opening Day.

Or Opening day?

In the NFL, it is Opening Day.

In baseball, it is Opening day.

It doesn’t mean any more or less, it is just different.

The Reds open the second season of the second decade of the 21st century Thursday with 19th century pageantry and it is goose bump stuff for everyone carrying scorecards or iPads. The thing is, there will be an off day Friday before they’ll do the exact same thing Saturday and for the next 160 days after that.

In the NFL, the opener is one of just 16 games, so naturally it carries more weight. But it is a lot more than that. The weight is crushing. The mentality of a town and a team takes shape in that first game. NFL openers can define seasons.

 You can just look at the Bengals’ Super Bowl seasons of 1981 (backup quarterback Turk Schonert’s come-from-behind win over Seattle in the wake of Ken Anderson’s benching) and 1988 (the goal-line stand in the final minutes against Phoenix) and wonder what would have happened if those had been Ls.

One of the many amazing things about the 2009 AFC North title is that the Bengals won four straight after losing the angst-ridden opener. In the wake of losing to the longest winning TD pass in the final   minute in NFL history (Denver’s infamous 87-yard Spike Strike), the Bengals somehow recovered to win in Green Bay before beating division foes Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Baltimore in the final  minute. Only once before, 1973, had the Bengals made the playoffs after losing the opener.

If Edinson Volquez gets lit up or Joey Votto goes 0-for-4 in the opener, there is no panic for the manager, players, media, or fans. It’s baseball. You have bad days. But in football, if you lose the opener, there are reasons and trends that show up quicker and harder. It’s football. It is what it is.

There are exceptions. In ’06, the Bengals started 3-0 but didn’t make playoffs because they lost the last three. And they opened ’07 with one of the more thrilling Opening Days ever, a Monday night home win over the Ravens with a goal-line stand. But they lost the next four.

Still, the opener sets a pretty good course.

 With their star receivers pouting during the 2008 offseason, they fell flat on their faces in the opener in Baltimore by amassing just 154 yards and even if Carson Palmer went on to miss 12 games, you wonder if it would have been 4-11-1 anyway. In 2010, nobody showed up in the rout in New England and the tone was set when the post-game discussion centered on wide receiver Terrell Owens’ decision to get his shoes fixed before the Bengals had a shot at a Hail Mary on the last play of the half. When Palmer’s bomb to Jordan Shipley ended up three yards short of the end zone, it didn’t take your British Lit professor to interpret the symbolism for the next 15 weeks.

Even the ’09 opener provided clues. They survived on defense and a sputtering offense that played best backed up against the clock but offered only one play longer than 20 yards.

It’s football. It is what it is. In baseball, it is only until the next day.

Sure, you get trends in baseball. But they seep into box scores and wriggle into averages during days, weeks, and months. In football, they’re ripped raw right away on the body, psyche, and film.

More differences:

In baseball, you get to throw out a first pitch. In football, they let you carry the ball out to the field, but the ref takes it from you.

In baseball, you kneel in the on-deck circle. In football, you’re no longer on deck when the player you’re backing up is kneeling in a circle.

In baseball, the defender plays the hitter. In football, the hitter is the defender.

In baseball, a changeup is an off-speed pitch. In football, a changeup is a running back that keeps defenses off balance with speed.

You want to know the difference? The scene in the post-game locker room

In baseball, win or lose, there is a beeline for the post-game spread and beverages. Even if it is a vintage 1-0 game that took all of two and a half hours to play, the participants generally behave as if they’ve been on a deserted island for two months and knock you over to make a ham sandwich.

In football, win or lose, the only things getting ingested are IVs. In the time it takes a lineman to tear the bandages off his bloody hands, a pinch hitter who didn’t break a sweat could have already had three bowls of chili. Sometimes a guard or tackle who is bent and broken after 60 minutes of pounding will ask you to help him fasten his cuff links. In baseball, they might ask you to pass the mayo.

It’s not better or worse.

Just different.

In baseball, there’s another day. In football, it is what it is.

Happy Opening Day.

Or Opening day.

Posted in Hobson's Choice | 10 Comments »

10 Responses to “Opening Day or Opening day?”

  1. By mwindle1973 on Apr 1, 2011 | Reply

    Ahhhh….baseball. Was a fan my whole life until the strike of 94. And I’ve never had any interest since. I could never get over them canceling the World Series. I almost got suckered back in by the home run era, until it was revealed to be the steriod era instead. I did tune in to see the Red Sox break the curse. But my wife is a BoSox fan and I had little choice. And Hobs you have hit on part of the reason why fans like me have left. Baseball wasn’t always the day at the park you just described. I can see DiMaggio or Kofax or Ted Williams hang their head, and shake it back in forth in dismay as someone says, “hey, can you pass the mayo!”

  2. By hobsonschoice1 on Apr 1, 2011 | Reply

    Here’s one for the wife. First paragraph from Dan Shaughnessy’s column in today’s Boston Globe:

    ARLINGTON, Texas — They are on more magazine covers than Gisele Bundchen. Sports Illustrated picks them to win 100 games and beat the Giants in the World Series just like 99 years ago at Fenway Park. On these pages last Sunday, six of six Globe writers picked the Red Sox to finish first in the American League East and make it to the 2011 World Series (you’d think we owned the team or something). In Wednesday’s New York Post, seven of seven baseball experts picked the Sox over the Yankees.

    Never has The Fens gone into a season with higher hopes. Bengaldom felt a lot like that last Sept. 12, so all caution to start.

  3. By bengalpirate on Apr 2, 2011 | Reply

    What a great contrast between baseball and football. Now that the Reds won their opener with a walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth, some of the local sports talk jocks are hyping another wire-to-wire season. Way too early for that kind of talk!!! In the NFL, as you touched on, the opener can often make or break a season. The tone and style for a team is often set in the opener with a win and at a minimum, that almighty force known as momentum can start rolling with a win, or roll back down the hill with a loss. Mighty MO, is so much more important in the NFL, in my opinion. I think the key for the Bengals to actually make it back into the playoffs and actually win a game or two, is for them to have some good MO going into the end of of the regular season. Momentum is important at the end of a season in baseball too, but way more important in the NFL at the end of the season, when many Super Bowl champions gather themselves and gain Mighty MO to win it all. It is my hope that in 2011 the Bengals somehow find season ending momentum and that the Reds do too, as nothing would feel better for Cincinnati sports, than for both teams to win championships in the same year. One can only hope for such a thing, but it is something to dream about and hope for, but I feel that one day it will happen.

  4. By mwindle1973 on Apr 2, 2011 | Reply

    Hobs I say body of work for Cory Dillion. I hate to do this, but I’m going to compare him to OJ Simpson. As a RB only! When I googled the stats I found it to be in part true. OJ sits 5 yds under Dillion at #18 on all time rushers list. They both endured a greater % of losing seasons than any other RBs in the top 20. Dillion started his career with 6 losing seasons. Finished with only 3 winning sesaons in 10 years. Simpson started with 4 losing seasons. Finshed with only 3 winning seasons in 11 years. Now as quick a case as I can for why he may still go to HOF. DIllion is #17 on the top 20. OJ at #18 & Riggins at #16 are both in the HOF. Inactive players in the top 20 who aren’t? Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, Edgerrin James. Active players in the top 20? Tomlinson & Fred Taylor. So he’s in a group of 6 backs to compete in the future for HOF spots. I think he easily ranks 4th out of the six. With his dominating ring bearing ’04 he still has a swinger’s chance at making it in somewhere down the line. But he definitely belongs in the HOF before any other RB.

  5. By mwindle1973 on Apr 2, 2011 | Reply

    Oh yeah, I forgot. The wife says thanks for the lowdown on the BoSox. She, like you, is hoping for another great season. Actually when I watched baseball I was a Reds fan, but the Red Sox were always my 2nd favorite team. I remember the 86 World Series too. 😦 That was one of many great series in that era. 86, 87, 91. Of course my personal favorie was the 90 Reds run through the playoffs and series. Just a phenomenal example of great team play and balance. Good luck to the to both the Red Stockings teams. The one in Cincinnati as well as the one in Boston.

  6. By wnyjoe on Apr 4, 2011 | Reply

    Growing up outside of Buffalo NY. I’ve been a Cleveland Indians fan because their AAA Farm team was the Buffalo Bisons and it was only a 3 hour drive to the Jake.
    Since the Red Sox came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Indians in the playoffs a few years ago, and the Indians blew the team up and traded everyone away (again), I haven’t had the heart to invest my time to follow them. Plus football season has become 365 long. No time for baseball. It was my first sports love. Maybe this Lockout can get me back into the swing of things. I miss baseball.

  7. By pftdabomb on Apr 4, 2011 | Reply

    The sad thing is all this NFL Labor BS has gotten me more excited for Baseball season then I have been in a LOOOOOONG time. Football better be careful or else it will become like baseball was after the 90’s strike.

  8. By hobsonschoice1 on Apr 4, 2011 | Reply

    Boy, you guys are exactly right. It’s amazing how the NFL monster gobbles up every news cycle it sees no matter the season.

    In mid-June there could be a huge series between Boston and New York, or St. Louis and the Reds, or the Giants and Dodgers, and the lead sports story is still some Pro Bowl receiver that didn’t report to a minicamp, or a first-round draft pick signing, or a starter tweaking a hamstring in an OTA.

    Of course, ESPN has a lot to do with that since it is a TV partner of the NFL. A rights-holder is a rights-holder and who is kidding whom?

    But even the news outlets that don’t have a financial stake in the NFL fill you up every day, 365. It is amazing for a league that as late as the mid-’90s would shut down from May to July and you didn’t hear a peep. That’s why both sides have to figure it out in a hurry. The attention span of the American public is slightly less than that of a one-cell animal.

    As for C.D., he should get in on his first try in the Hall of Fame (Ken Riley and Lemar Parrish should go in with him), but he’ll have an uphill climb to Canton just because of what you say.

    He’s lumped in there with backs from pretty much the same era and they’re going to suffer what Tim Brown and Cris Carter are suffering at wide receiver right now. They’re getting lost in each other’s candidacies.

    Bettis gets in because he’s a Steeler who got a ring and he retired in the top five. Tomlinson gets in because of his TD numbers and he’s already in the top 10. Martin finished in the top four and he’ll go.

    But everyone else is going to be grinding. Hard to see them taking more than three or four from the same era because soon it will be time to move to the next.

    That’s why Dillon would be a better sell if he ended up with more than 12,000 yards and finished at about No. 7. That’s Tony Dorsett range, plus Dillon could market the 278-yard game and 246-yard rookie game to go with the ring. That would give him the nod over everybody from his time but Martin and Tomlinson.

    Yet the voters are going to get turned off by the No. 17 ranking and you figure the negative stuff is going to hurt a border-line guy even though a lot of guys in Canton had worse moments.

    I’d put him in after Tomlinson and Martin and before Bettis. A nice player, Jerome. But a runner with a 3.9 average shouldn’t be in the Hall.

    My one thought on the Indians is Anderson High School pitcher Jensen Lewis, now in the Cleveland organization. I had chance to meet him since my son played there and was always impressed with his maturity and how well the Ohio Player of the Year treated the younger players.

    He wouldn’t know me from Duffy Lewis, but at his graduation I told him to go easy on the Red Sox and, wouldn’t you know it, five years later I’m screaming and cursing at him in the 2007 ALCS as if he were Bucky Bleeping Dent. Jensen was the difference for the first part of the series and was a major reason they went up 3-1.

    He had a tough spring, but I hope he finds what he had for that one week in October.

    Just not in Fenway.

  9. By jamison007 on Apr 4, 2011 | Reply

    Huge Reds fan here. Been raised a Bengals and Reds fan…so I am finding it very interesting to see how strong the Reds organization has become since bringing in Jockety, their GM. The Reds have had poor pitching ever since the brilliant WS run in ’90. Jockety has done an amazing job picking up some great young hungry talent the past three years and now we have a full stock of quality pitching! The Reds are in fantastic shape as a team, top to bottom! I am so proud to be a Reds fan. Memo to Mike Brown-don’t you think it’s time to stop acting like you don’t need any help outside of your coach? At the very least, we need players that have love for the game and want to dedicate themselves to pushing hard everyday, even during a lockout. Bottom line, if you look at the Reds – they are a bunch of humble, hard working kids and vets that just love the heck out of the game. Thats how you breed success. We need our Bengal organization to learn a heck of a lot from the Reds!

  10. By mwindle1973 on Apr 5, 2011 | Reply

    Geoff do you think it’s lost on the HOF voters how much Dillon meant to the 04 Pats Super Bowl team. First there is the 1635 yds and 12 TDs. Look at the post season run to the ring. Dillion was essential to the victories. Divisonal game against Indy he went for 144 yds & 5 catches in a 20-3 route. Where the Pats held the ball for 38 minutes. Next game he goes for 77 yds & a 25 yd, 3rd qtr TD against the Steelers. In the Super Bowl he went for 78 on 18 tries and a TD. Including a key 25 yd scamper and 3 catches. He rang up a total of 292 yards, caught 9 passes for 53 yards, and scored 2 touchdowns in the Pats 3 postseason games. But I see your point. Tomlinson & Martin are locks. And Bettis probably is too. His 3.9 isn’t impressive, but let’s not forget that he made it to 10k yds faster than Peyton, Martin and a lot of others in the top 20. You’re right another 1k yds or so and Dillon’s in there too. But he would be the next guy to go after Bettis.

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