Rivalries and the future of Opening Day
Watching the Yankees' opening day game this season, it's clear that "Opening Day" is not quite the destination it used to be. A strikingly large majority of seats behind home plate are empty, with placards still adorned to seats as if no one has even tried to sit in them all day.
Sure, it could be the cold weather, or the fact that the Yankees are playing the Tigers instead of, say, the Red Sox. It could also be that baseball doesn't have the clout it does anymore, and taking a day off work to go to a ball game is not atop people's priorities lists.
But the most effective way that Major League Baseball is going to keep fans interested when opening day falls in the midst of the NCAA's March Madness Final Four and the NBA's playoff race is to have prime-time games featuring age-old rivalries like the Dodgers and Giants.
The sort of bitter rivalry between the Dodgers and the Giants is something very unique to baseball in American sports. Of course every sport has their rivalries—Lakers-Celtics, Tiger-Phil, Cowboys-Everyone. But the Lakers-Celtics rivalry is really the only multi-generational, bitter rivalry in the league, and the teams only play each other twice during the regular season.
Longtime rivalries in MLB are everywhere in every division: Dodger-Giants, Yankees-Red Sox, Cubs-White Sox, Cardinals-Dodgers-Cubs, Yankees-Dodgers, A's-Giants, Phillies-Mets-Pirates—just to name a few. Many of these rivalries are nearly a century old, dating back to the roots of professional baseball.
If Major League Baseball wants to retain interest in the sport, and keep Opening Day as a major event, they are going to need to remind the general sports-viewing public of these rivalries by showcasing them on opening day (or night).
This is what's so great about the Dodgers-Giants opening night game this season. The whole country will be able to turn on their TV's during dinner time and watch the season opener display one of the greatest rivalries in all of American sports.
MLB did a great job this season putting this game on prime-time TV, and if they want to keep fans interested in baseball, and interest younger fans as well, they are going to need to make games available during prime time showcasing great rivalries.
The league needs to continue to utilize its unique history to stay relevant in American sports: a Dodgers-Giants Opening Night is an excellent way to get the ball rolling.