ESPN, “Opening Day”

Once again, baseball season is almost upon us. And with it comes this stirring (though at the same time, somehow also mock-stirring) spot from Wieden + Kennedy promoting ESPN’s Opening Day coverage on March 31. The voiceover is by Kevin Costner, whose category pedigree is unmatched thanks to Field of Dreams. Many viewers won’t even realize it’s him, but that’s OK. The writing itself is sharp enough to carry the day. It walks the line between heroic and playful, which is just right for the subject matter—baseball, after all, being both transcendental and also, of course, just a game. “This isn’t flag day. This is ridiculously huge flag day,” Costner intones, as we see an oversized Old Glory being unfurled across pristine, sun-drenched outfield grass. “It’s more presidential than Presidents Day. This is the day that fathers wish was their day. This is Christmas, but Santa has a black beard and delivers presents no one wants.” With that, we see Brian Wilson—the fantastically odd (and odd-looking) closer for the San Francisco Giants, who threw the last pitch of last season for the World Series champions—holding a flaming, sparkling ball. “I wrapped it myself,” he says, deadpan, before hurling it toward a terrified batter. The spot is about as entertaining as sports ads get—a worthy reflection of the giddy anticipation baseball fans everywhere feel at this time of year. —Tim Nudd