Here’s the bottom line: Without sports, many of us have been forced into spending more time than we otherwise would, following the “news.” Speaking only for myself, this has been both terrifying and hugely depressing on so many, many levels. It’s not as if I didn’t consider myself a relatively informed person (I did). But being a “relatively” informed person is far safer in todays’ news environment than being a “totally” informed person.
If baseball were happening, I’d be spending more than three hours a day or night watching the Twins, and that would be so much healthier, for me, and probably, for society at large. It’s scary out there, we know that, its why baseball isn’t happening and most of us have been quarantined for a long time now.
But it’s scary in here too….if “in here” means in our homes or apartments watching the news. Phrases like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” are now commonly understood and will be forever in our lexicons. At least we have “The Last Dance” and thankfully it’s not about the end of the world, since it really sounds as though it might be.
If there was ever a doubt about how much we needed distractions from the tribulations of day-to-day life, all doubt has now been removed. We need distractions. Focus upon politics, or upon other more substantive pursuits can drive people to many things, and almost all of them are bad.
We may have family members or friends who follow and support a different team, but we still talk to them, and even care about them. Sure, we worry about a person who would knowingly and freely cheer for the Cleveland Indians or the Green Bay Packers, but we still love them and still communicate with them. Sometimes we even good naturedly kid each other about our devotion to the cause of their clearly inferior franchise, but that’s all we do, we kid.
But now, without this needed distraction, we find ourselves talking to people about things that happen in the world day-to-day and those conversations can end horribly. And they often do. Who you voted for, or who you might vote for changes our views of one another in a far more dangerous way than which team you support or who is your favorite player. Sure, someone who actually liked Alex Rodriquez was ridiculed, and they probably deserved that ridicule, and today’s fan of Trevor Bauer, truly has some explaining to do….but still we’ll hear them out as they attempt to explain themselves and their abhorrent thoughts.
With politics or other “news” stories, we may not even allow them the opportunity to explain themselves, as our judgments have been made, and there’s simply no room for debate. We need baseball, and I when I say “we need baseball” I mean we genuinely “need” baseball to prevent even more fracture and divisiveness in a badly fractured and divided society.
Baseball brings us together. I first noticed this myself when I would first attend meetings in a different city and if I were in a taxi or uber or lyft one of the most tried and true ways of getting past awkward small talk or awkward silence would be to talk about sports. You’d be a fool to talk about religion or politics, for if your driver felt differently, you might not ever make your destination.
One of the many beautiful things about sports is that you can’t truly make an enemy in a fifteen-minute ride from Midway to the Loop when you talk about the Twins and White Sox or even the Bears and Vikings. (In fairness, you can’t really talk about the Wolves and Bulls, because well…the Wolves….I mean, what’s there really to say)? But sports is a common language, we don’t ask a fan of another team to “justify their position,” we just understand it, even if we don’t agree with it. After all, we’re fans ourselves, and loving our own teams comes from within and often without statistical justification.
I mean, for proof of this, there are fans of the San Diego Padres, and even the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions, living among us, so winning percentages aren’t required, just pure, sometimes unrequited love. We accept it because we understand it. But who you might vote for in the fall, we’ll never understand that, so let’s just not go there. We’ve had far too much time to go there. We need to not go there, and we need baseball soon.
Even without fans in the stands, and even if all the games are in the swamps or in the desert or wherever, we really need baseball. If we continue to have time to watch the news, I fear we’ll never be the same.