Children love Christmas, because of the presents. Teens love Halloween, because the vandalism. But adults — by which I mean sensible people, by which I mean me — love the Fourth of July, because of the everything.
The Fourth is the perfect holiday. You celebrate something important — the founding of the United States of America, that noble experiment — by doing exactly what you’d want to do on a hot day in the middle of summer. There’s none of the religious tediousness of, say, Easter, or the marginal quality of President’s Day. There’s nobody there you don’t want to see, like at Thanksgiving. You don’t need to stay up late, as sensible people increasingly find hard to do, during New Years. And it doesn’t start in late September and go on for months and months, with the carols and the commercialism and the bottomless slavering maw of greed, like with Kwanza.
There is nothing more American than the Fourth, and nothing more ideal: picnics and fireworks and no gift-giving and exactly zero obligation to see your extended family.
And sports. American sports. Especially baseball.
Oh, sure, people at Thanksgiving might go all Kenneys and run a little touch football in the backyard before drinking themselves into a stupor, and at Christmas, they’ll certainly watch plenty of games. But no other holiday comes as close to requiring that you get up off your ass and throw, catch or hit a ball, warmed by the summer sun, belly full of hot dogs. And that’s a wonderful thing.
Because along with BBQ and ice cream and fireworks and music, along with constitutionally defined government and the Bill of Rights and the slow but infinite perfectability of the American experiment — along with everything that makes the Fourth of July such a perfect day — baseball is uniquely American, with a unique place in our history. It is simultaneously as old as our traditions and as new as our dreams.
You can get by on the Fourth without baseball. You can get by on Election Day without voting. It doesn’t mean you should, and it doesn’t mean that you’ll be better off for it. Part of what it is to be truly American is to truly participate.
That’s a moral not just for a single afternoon the first week in July, but for each day that you’re lucky enough to live under a blue sky and a government of, by and for the people. Join in. Play a part. Make a difference. Eat yourself full, nap a little, enjoy your friends and family, and then get up, go out and play. It will be dark soon, and there’s going to be a show.
But until then — catch, throw, hit, run, breathe, live.
[Fireworks at Dodger Stadium courtesy of malingering.]