It’s Opening Day here in Detroit, and fans are preparing in the traditional way, shoveling snow.

Soon, players will be pulling on their ski masks, and hot dog vendors will stick their hands in boiling water, just to get some feeling back in their fingers. The tarp will be lifted from the field — so the snow plows can come in — and once the salt trucks finish in the parking lot, and the umpire is defrosted, finally, the big moment, when the first batter walks to the plate, turns to the catcher and says, “M-m-m-man, even my bleep is cold.”

And he spits.

And it freezes.

Not that we care. As any good baseball fan knows, the whole point of Opening Day is to have fun, relax, and, most important, take off from work. Frankly, you don’t care if Hurricane Edna is blowing across centerfield — you’re going.

Of course, once upon a time, fans did actually go to see the game, but that was back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and players only made six-figure salaries. Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahahaha, that was so long ago, I can’t believe it.

Anyhow, today, while you can expect to see all ages of people at the game, they are not all there for the same reason.

Take older people, for example — say, those over 50. This group sees baseball as a reminder of a simpler time, when grass was real and life was slow, and Sunday afternoons were spent at the ballpark, eating hot dogs and keeping score with a red pencil. To them, baseball is warmth, innocence, gentility.

Whereas, to those under 30, baseball is Deion Sanders’ other sport.

The three-group theory

Young people do not care much for baseball. They would rather watch basketball, hockey, football, Rollerblades, paint dry, cows graze, or the same episode of MTV’s Spring Break 47 times — rather than watch a baseball game from start to finish.

As I think about it, they may have a point. . . .

Wait. There is also a group in the middle. These are people between 30 and 50, who are old enough to vaguely recall when baseball was fun, but young enough to now see it as two minutes of action squeezed into 3 1/2 hours of boredom. They also resent the money the players make — but only the way Cain resented Abel.

“Play ball!” the older group says.

“Play ball already!” the middle group says.

“Hey, Beavis, look, they’re scratching their private parts!” the younger group says.

To further prove my point, let us break this down to categories. Let’s call it: Generation X (under 30) Generation M (between 30-50) and Generation O
(those over 50.)

Here are a few examples of how differently they view the game.

“Spring Training” is . . .

GEN O: Too short. GEN M: Too long. GEN X: Practicing your wet T-shirt dance.

The “cleanup man” is . . .

GEN O: The fourth batter in the lineup. GEN M: Overpaid, no doubt. GEN X: Whoever takes the keg back.

“The All-Star Game” is . . .

GEN O: A chance to see your heroes from the other league. GEN M: A chance to see 18 freakin’ millionaires on the field at once. GEN X: A chance to see Shaq slam.

“Willie, Mickey and the Duke” are . . .

GEN O: Mays, Mantle and Snider. GEN M: Mays, Mantle and that other guy. GEN X: Green Day?

“Ball Four” is . . .

GEN O: A walk. GEN M: A book by Jim Bouton. GEN X: The Chicago goalie.

“A double play” means . . .

GEN O: Tinker to Evers to Chance. GEN M: Trammell to Whitaker to Evans. GEN X: Good, the inning ends faster.

“He got out of a jam” means . . .

GEN O: A pitcher did well. GEN M: The athlete bribed the judge. GEN X: The guitar player stopped.

“The Hall of Fame” is . . .

GEN O: Where heroes are found. GEN M: Where dad’s heroes are found. GEN X: In Cleveland, you moron. Didn’t you see the concert?

So, as you can tell, it’s like the old expression, “Baseball means different things to different people.” But on Opening Day, the barriers come down, we cast aside our differences, and we are all one big happy family, dedicated to an important common goal: skipping out on work.

Why else do they call it the National Pastime?

Today’s game
* WHEN: Tigers vs. Seattle, 1:15 p.m. Box office opens at 9 a.m., gates at 10:15.
* WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Michigan and Trumbull.
* TV/RADIO: Channel 50 in Detroit; WJR-AM (760).
* TICKETS: $8-$12 (5,000 obstructed-view remain).
* STARTING PITCHERS: LH Scott Aldred (0-1) vs. RH Bob Wolcott (0-1).
* ANTHEM: Anita Baker.
* FIRST BALL: Mayor Dennis Archer, Gov. John Engler.
* GIVEAWAY: Magnetic schedules. Tigers’ starters Curtis CF Higginson RF Fryman 3B Fielder 1B Nieves LF E. Williams DH Lewis 2B Flaherty C Trammell SS Our opener The Tigers always throw a pretty good Opening bash, but we have a few ideas for making it better:
* Have someone like Alanis Morissette sing the national anthem. And have free tattoos and body-piercing in the bleachers.
* You say there’s already free body-piercing in the bleachers?
* Let a Tigers pitcher throw out the first ball. They don’t last much longer than that, anyway.
* Reconsider lowering the fences — or at least provide hard hats for front-row fans who get clunked by enemy homers.

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