The happiest day of the year

In life, there are four seasons.  The off-season, Spring Training, the regular season, and the post-season.  Today turns the calendar, and right now, your favorite team actually has a shot at winning the World Series (except maybe the Cubs).  It’s Opening Day, the happiest day of the year.

I’m a probability guy when I’m here.  I spend a lot of time thinking about baseball in terms of which outcome is the most likely or which is the one that would be optimal.  Every once in a great while, it’s good to stop and remember that baseball is a little bit more than just that.  As a psychologist, I’m very aware that humans are creatures who like to tell stories, and baseball is one way that, as a culture, we tell stories.  Yes, I can tell you a good bit about the most likely outcomes to happen, but then again, I once defined the Pythagorean Win Estimator as a theory which shows that despite the fact that another team is jumping on top of one another celebrating their World Series win, your favorite team was actually better.  And we can prove it.  Once in a while, it’s probably good that I take a look up from my spreadsheets and remember that this is supposed to be a little slice of life, played in increments of 90 feet.  I might know what the projected probabilities are for all the different possible outcomes, but only one of them will actually happen.

This summer, there will be a couple of cities that fall in love with their teams.  Some will have their hearts broken.  Some will remember 2009 as “the year when…”  Opening Day is like Christmas morning just before the presents are opened.  You know that what follows is going to be fun.  You just don’t know quite what’s inside yet.  And it means that once more, baseball is being played in Mudville, despite what happened last year.

Tonight, we rip off the paper to see what’s inside.  With no apologies for indulging in a little public reverrie and hopeless romanticism (and here I’m supposed to be all objective and scientific), I quote the last two words of the Star-Spangled Banner, “play ball!”


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