Here’s a crazy one for you in these crazy days.
To be a sports fan in 2020, means we have to embrace being unable to be a fan.
I know, that sounds like a bad college philosophy lecture. “Please pull out your blue books and explain the following statement — To be a fan, means you cannot be a fan . . . “
We already knew a month-long shelter-in-place was testing our sanity, not to mention very real things like jobs, money, businesses. What we also learned during this was that sports is not the trivial, meaningless thing some dismiss it as. Sports, as many of us have known intrinsically through the years, and now are reminded daily, is essential to a full enjoyment of life.
Put plainly, we have missed sports more than we can even say. We haven’t just missed the games, the buzzer-beaters, the three-run home runs, the eagles at Augusta National. We’ve missed it all; the communal bonds, the buzz, the stories.
And now, there is word we may be able to get it back — with a cost.
We can’t go to the games.
This is not a medical journal, so I am not saying anything absolute. This is a little ol’ Jock Blog. But as we have waited a month for some kind of news since Rudy Gobert tested positive, we have gotten some in the past week. First, there was the ESPN report about a possible “shelter-in-place” baseball season in Arizona, or “BioDome Ball”, if you will.
(Shout out to Pauly Shore, where is he? *Zaza voice*)
Then, the good doctor Anthony Fauci came out this week and basically endorsed the baseball proposal. He even lent credence to his words by saying “I’m a Nationals fan . . . we won the World Series . . . I want to watch them play!”
Fauci. The guy is a classic, not to mention an internationally-renowned infectious disease expert; and not to mention the subject of Paulie Mac’s latest song gem, “Fauci”, set to Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.”
Side note: I’d love to get Fauci off the record on the Astros sign-stealing scandal nearly costing his beloved Nats the title. Give me some of that profane Brooklyn-born honesty, doc.
At any rate, now that Fauci has given the thumbs-up to baseball-in-place plan, I have to believe it’s going to gain steam. And that means we would get baseball this summer — without us in the stands.
That gets us back to our bad college philosophy class: When can a baseball fan . . . NOT be a baseball fan?
Answer: When a global pandemic turns everything upside down.
And my answer is the same as Doc Fauci’s answer. Bring me baseball, even in a biodome.
Now, this of course is fraught with challenges, and pitfalls, and potential hurdles. And players would be asked to be away from their families; but then again, you have players from Latin America away from their families for sometimes years at a time in chasing the baseball dream. And maybe if the country continues to do a good job social distancing, and more antibody tests come, and we get closer to normalcy, maybe eventually they can see their families.
But the larger point is this. Baseball, and sports, are essential to our well-being as a society. Walt Whitman or Alex de Tocqueville or one of those guys in the 1800s said something about “to understand America, you must understand baseball.” That quote has been debunked by historians, but who needs those party poopers?
So that’s the compromise we must make, if this is all to come together. We get the games, but not the experience. We get the TV feed, but can’t tousle the hair of our kids during the 7th inning stretch. We get a pitcher-batter showdown, but we don’t get to walk the portwalk and go get a crab sandwich. We get a 6-4-3 double play, but we don’t get a national anthem, or to experience the post-game glow of streaming out of the yard and across Lefty O’Doul Bridge with happy Giants fans after a win in the late Sunday afternoon light.
And that’s the deal we’re going to have to make for now. It’s not permanent. At least I don’t think it’s permanent. Again, not a doctor. But life is throwing us a big ol’ Clayton Kershaw curve ball right now. It’s tough to hit. Best we can do is hang in the box, track the pitch and put the best swing we can on it.
Baseball without fans is the best swing we can muster right now. And we gotta take our hacks, sports fans. It’s what the sports gods would want us to do.
Let’s play ball. As weird as it might be, it’s ball.