George Will: Baseball's opening day shouldn't be a holiday

Political pundit George Will says baseball's opening day shouldn't be a federal holiday because it would take the fun out of the age-old tradition of cutting class or skipping work to go to the ballpark's first game of the season. 

"Part of the fun of Opening Day is skipping work," Will said in an interview with The Hill. "If they make it a national holiday, there will be no work to skip."

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Will's comments were echoed by a handful of baseball-loving lawmakers, who said they would not support a White House petition that has garnered signatures from thousands of fans to turn opening day into a holiday.

"Baseball is too big and grand to be enhanced by anything Congress can do," Will said.

Growing up, Will recalled that sometimes his parents would let him cut class to attend Opening Day. "I'm not sure I ever went to school on Opening Day," he said. 

The White House petition was started Monday by beer company Anheuser-Busch, which brews Budweiser, and is being promoted by Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals. The 30-day petition has collected more than 50,000 signatures, half of what is needed to trigger a review by the Obama administration. 

But several members of Congress told The Hill that turning opening Day into a federal holiday is not necessary to commemorate the national pastime. 

Fox News moderator Chris Wallace, an avid baseball fan, said part of the fun of opening Day is "playing hooky." 

"If people want to go to Opening Day, they can do what they've done over time, which is convince their parents to let them stay home from school or develop a stomach bug," said Wallace, who roots for both the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles.

"I don't think it needs to be that institutionalized," he added.

Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1971 and recently helped form the bipartisan Congressional Baseball Caucus, said he is a big baseball fan, but thinks that Congress has more important things to worry about.

"Baseball represents everything that is good in America," Williams said. "But in this economy, with people hurting for jobs, we need to focus on putting people back to work."

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) couldn't agree more.

"I am a huge baseball fan, but I am an even bigger fan of work," said Gowdy, who roots for the Cincinnati Reds, the first professional baseball team. "Do we really need another day off?"

But the petitioners may find at least one congressional supporter in Rep. Pete King (D-N.Y.). The New York Mets and former Brooklyn Dodgers fan said Jackie Robinson had a greater impact on American culture by breaking baseball's color barrier than almost any government program since 1947.

King said he takes his son and nine-year-old grandson to at least one Mets game each season, but has never been to opening Day. He's rooting for the petition to succeed, but doesn't think it has much of a chance at passing.

"Baseball is a national pastime," King said. "So it really goes beyond just the game of baseball. It's something that's passed on from generation to generation, and it really is special. This would be a symbolic way of showing national unity."

 

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