Two big names in beer and baseball have teamed up in an effort to make Major League Baseball's Opening Day a national holiday.
Anheuser-Busch, the official beer sponsor of MLB and most of its teams, has launched a campaign to petition the White House to grant the beginning of the season status as a federal holiday. The push is headlined by former St. Louis Cardinals shortstop and Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith and backed by other players including Eric Byrnes, Howard Johnson, and Sean Casey.
The petition seeks 100,000 signatures within 30 days of the campaign's launch. At the time of this writing, it already has more than 40,000 signatures with 27 days remaining. It states:
MLB Opening Day is more than just the beginning of the season. It’s a symbol of rebirth. The coming of spring. The return of America's national pastime. It’s a state of mind where anything is possible. You can feel the electricity in the air. Opening Day brings with it the promise of a new beginning. Every fan is in good spirits. It’s a day of celebration. It’s a day of hope. It’s a day that, for generations, has been looked forward to by baseball fans every off-season. It’s an American tradition, and it deserves to be recognized as an American holiday. Join us in our quest to make sure every American can exercise their inalienable right to celebrate the day those two magical words are uttered for the first time: “PLAY BALL!"
As a baseball fan who has admittedly played hooky from school and work several times over the years to sit in the Yankee Stadium stands, this sounds like a great idea. Each season, hundreds of thousands of people invariably call out sick in order to attend their team's daytime opener.
It should be noted, however, that the campaign isn't just looking to mark the day as a commemorative holiday -- it's trying to shut down the entire federal government in the name of baseball. A 2011 study by Rasmussen estimated that each national holiday costs the government $450 million in pay for civil employees and lost productivity. Aside from the cost, the campaign faces institutional challenges, and would have to pass both houses of Congress and get the president's signature to pass. It's also hard to justify making Opening Day the 12th federal holiday, putting it in the ranks of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Veterans Day. It would say a lot about our warped national priorities if the beginning of the baseball season was awarded a federal holiday status not given the anniversary of 9/11.
Regardless, Anheuser-Busch, now part of the Belgian brewing giant InBev, will likely benefit from the exposure of this clever marketing campaign, which could go a long way to restoring Budweiser's U.S. appeal. The self-proclaimed "king of beers" has lost its crown, with domestic sales plummeting by 28.8 percent over the past five years, and could stand to gain from an increasingly public association with the national pastime. The three-decade partnership between MLB and A-B began to fray in 2010, when the company sued the league for allegedly reneging on a deal to extend a sponsorship agreement. It appears all is well between America's sport and America's brewery, however, as the two have extended their partnership through 2018, meaning baseball fans will be flooded with mediocre beer from Opening Day -- whether they have to take the day off from work or not.
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