Full disclosure: I don’t know what I’m doing. None of us do.
The other day, I was watching highlights from early 2010s Cardinals games. Not any of the classic postseason devil magic moments, but mundane regular season contests whose details have already evaded me. St. Louis ended up winning some of those games and losing others. Most of them didn’t even contain a single play that would be considered a memorable highlight. They were the type of games that serve as the backdrop to a midsummer weeknight in a seemingly endless sea of midsummer weeknights. But they were baseball–and that’s something we won’t have for the foreseeable future.
Opening Day was supposed to be this Thursday. Yes, it’s frustrating to not be able to watch Jack Flaherty’s rising star shine once every five days or (eventually) bear witness to Dylan Carlson’s MLB debut. That’s not what has struck me recently, though. Rather, it’s the sense of normalcy 162 games provide that I’ll miss.
We–at the expense of being presumptuous, I assume I speak for most ardent baseball fans–didn’t realize how much we rely on baseball for stability until it suddenly wasn’t there when we expected it to be. Good day or bad day, whatever the situation, we could count on sports to offer escapism.
Ironically enough, however, sports tend to be reflective of society writ large no matter how hard we may try to use them to run away from the ‘real world.’ Broader social issues, economic trends, etc. are mirrored in the athletes, teams, and leagues we follow; COVID-19 disrupting the normal and turning it on its head is no exception.
I admittedly didn’t watch nearly as much Spring Training baseball as I normally do. This was largely because I was busy earlier this month, but I was able to justify my lack of spectatorship on the grounds that I still had another 6+ months of baseball. What difference did it make whether or not I caught a couple extra lowly spring games?
Suffice it to say that many people from completely different walks of life in completely different situations are similarly kicking themselves right now for taking something for granted. Of course, those things will oftentimes be far more important than sports. I am obviously more concerned about this pandemic’s implications for people’s health and livelihoods than a suspension of adult men throwing a ball and swinging a stick on a daily basis.
I wish I had some sort of profound takeaway from these unprecedented developments to give you. All I can say is that these are strange times. Very strange times. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. It’s difficult not to think about how even the institutions we thought to be generally immune to chaos have been pulled out from underneath our feet.
I imagine a sizable portion of our readership at VEB is now under some sort of official ‘stay-at-home’ mandate, swarmed by government officials and media outlets urging them to practice social distancing. You may feel isolated, especially in the absence of the sports we utilize as a social safety net to connect us. But keep in mind that it has never been the physical games themselves that bond us together so much as it is a closely-knit community of fans. Games or not, that community still exists. In some ways, the most normal part of baseball fandom has remained untouched.