We needed this.
We needed a break from the bombardment of news updates and Wolf Blitzer reports.
We needed a break from the lights flashing over Baghdad and the threat of worldwide terror in the back of our minds.
We needed a change from the bone-chilling winter and a promise of warm weather ahead.
We needed opening day.
Opening day in Cincinnati has the anticipation of the ball dropping on New Year’s Eve.
It can liken to the World Series, the Final Four, and even the Super Bowl. Except for one thing, it’s only for Reds fans.
However, this year was different.
Instead of celebrating the coming of the new baseball season, a different kind of celebration took place at Great American Ballpark-we were celebrating as Americans.
Before the game, the Reds organization placed small American flags in each and every one of the 42,343 seats in the new ballpark.
These flags were waved by the fans during much of the opening ceremonies.
They were waved during Lee Greenwood’s rendition of “God Bless the U.S.A.”
They were waved as New York Police officer, Daniel Rodriguez, sang the national anthem.
They were waved with the most pride, as former President Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch and declared himself, “the proudest father in the world.”
No protesters took part in this celebration, just fans.
Fans of the Reds, of course, but more importantly fans of America.
No signs labeled Bush as a terrorist; no voices said we are only after oil.
Instead, more than 42,000 people roared in pride and support for Bush, as their never-ending sea of flags circled above the field.
After that first pitch, we finally got what we needed.
Instead of being purely recreational, baseball served as sort of a mental diversion for the rest of the day.
Although the Reds quickly fell behind in the scoring column, the game still proved to be an escape.
Instead of hearing the latest news on the war, we focused on Griffey’s season and whether the new stadium will prove to be a hitters’ park.
However, we knew it was only a temporary escape.
We knew the minute we stepped outside that ballpark, our thoughts would go back to being with our soldiers and our country, because in times of war that’s where they should be.
When we returned home, the first thing many of us did was catch up on the latest developments in our fight against Saddam Hussein.
But what’s important is that we are finding ways to ease our nervousness, if only for a minute.
After all, that is one of the reasons we are involved in this war.
So we can go on about our lives not having to worry about what or who will terrorize us next.
So we can be secure. So we can enjoy a day at the ballpark.
I hope opening day next year will be normal.
I hope we can cheer more for our team instead of our country.
At least we can be sure we will be safe, because of what our soldiers are doing now.