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The four days that make 2018 best season ever

Opening Day is upon us, and it signals seven straight months of baseball
MLB.com @williamfleitch

For all the conversations about how the most recent Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement has affected the sport, one aspect of the CBA has been mostly overlooked. And handily, it's the only part any of us care about this particular second.

Here is the full CBA in PDF form: Trust me, it is riveting reading. (Actual phrase cut and pasted from the doc: "pursuant to Articles IV, VII(D), VII(F)(1), (3), (4), and (5), XIV(D), XV(E)(3)(d), XV(N)(6), XIX(C)(3)(d), Attachment 15.") But here is the section most relevant to our current interests:

For all the conversations about how the most recent Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement has affected the sport, one aspect of the CBA has been mostly overlooked. And handily, it's the only part any of us care about this particular second.

Here is the full CBA in PDF form: Trust me, it is riveting reading. (Actual phrase cut and pasted from the doc: "pursuant to Articles IV, VII(D), VII(F)(1), (3), (4), and (5), XIV(D), XV(E)(3)(d), XV(N)(6), XIX(C)(3)(d), Attachment 15.") But here is the section most relevant to our current interests:

The 2017 championship season will not be scheduled over a period of less than 178 days or more than 183 days. Beginning in 2018, each championship season will not be scheduled over a period of less than 182 days or more than 187 days.

That line means that the 2018 season has four more days off in it for players than '17 did, and that's important to players: That's why they negotiated to include it. But it's even more important to fans. Because adding four days off in a baseball season might mean four days off for baseball players, but it doesn't mean four days off for fans. There are now four more days of baseball than there was last season. And those four days start right now.

Today, there are real, live regular-season baseball games. Fourteen of them, in fact. Every Major League Baseball team was supposed to play, before the Nationals-Reds opener was postponed because of bad weather. Still, March 29 is in fact the earliest Opening Day in baseball history: Before this year, March 30 was the first date you had watched a full slate of baseball games. (If you could stay up late or get up early, you could watch one game in Japan or Australia in the past.)

This might seem trivial, and I suppose it would be if we were talking about the NFL, the NBA or even college sports. Those sports have sporadic schedules, with constant days off: There are always days in which there are no games in those sports once the regular season starts -- the NBA has one Monday, for crying out loud -- and a strong argument could be made that the season doesn't really get going until the playoffs begin anyway. Opening Day is something very different in other sports. Put it this way: There are no quotes from Bill Belichick about staring out the window and waiting until fall. (Of course, I'm not sure football coaches do anything but watch video all night when they're not on the field. They might not be allowed windows.)

But baseball, baseball is a sport that thrives on its routine. From Opening Day until the final game of the World Series -- All-Star break excepted, of course, and what a barren few days those are -- there is never a day when there is not a baseball game on. No matter what you have going on any particular day over the next seven months of your life, you will have the option of watching a baseball game.

Some use this as an argument against baseball, that there are too many games, that no single game is overwhelmingly relevant, that it's not enough of an event. But the beauty of baseball is that it's not an event. Sure, sometimes it is: Sometimes it's the biggest, most amazing event you've ever seen. But it doesn't have to be. It can just be some background noise while you're on a long drive. It can be a casual evening out in a city you just happen to be visiting. It can be something to pass the time when you're supposed to be studying or working. It can be an excuse to get together with an old friend.

Baseball is whatever you make of it. There is no other sport that is so flexible, so conducive to become whatever form a fan wants to consume it. I always like to think of the baseball season as a river. You can swim in it. You can fish in it. You can just sit on a hill overlooking it while doing something else. You can spend all weekend there, or you can just dip your toes in. It is whatever you want it to be, or however you want to use it. It doesn't matter. The river is there regardless. For those seven months, it's always there.

And that's what so exciting about the extra four days we now get in this baseball season, and baseball seasons to come. That river forms earlier than ever. We will get too excited, too eager for baseball to be back, and we will lap up as much as we can, and we will draw silly and sweeping conclusions from small amounts of data and evidence, conclusions that we will surely forget all about in a week. And then there will be more games, and more games, and more games -- whenever we need them. There are more days off for the players. But there are fewer for us. Everybody wins.

The next seven months of your life, of my life, of everyone's life, are going to change your life. There is so much happening, so much life, so much activity, that you and I and everybody we know will be a little bit different at the end of this journey than we were at the beginning. Maybe a relative is getting married; maybe a friend is having a baby; perhaps an old acquaintance will pass on. Life comes at you slowly, and then suddenly, in large, gasping gales. We look for stability. We look for something that was there yesterday, is there today and will be there tomorrow. Starting today, for the next seven months, that thing will be baseball. The game changes. The rules of play alter. The style evolves. But the game is still the game, and it's still there for you, every day. Starting right now.

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.