The coronavirus and sports

Why games are not meaningless...

On at least three separate occasions in the last week I’ve sat down to write about baseball and before I can finish or post what I’ve written, the changing news has made it obsolete or irrelevant.

I’m guessing a detailed explanation of outfield positioning is not on the top of your need-to-know list at the moment.

Like a lot of you, my plans have changed.

On Monday, I was supposed to fly to Phoenix, Arizona to attend the last week of spring training and now that’s not going to happen. I made the decision to cancel my trip last Sunday – four days before spring training was canceled – and here’s why.

According to at least one article on the internet there is no research supporting the idea that you’re more likely to get sick from flying on an airplane. (Clearly, some researchers need to take a trip on Spirit Airlines.) But there is research to support the idea that close contact with other people is a good way to spread germs. And if the contact gets any closer on today’s plane flights we’ll be sitting in each other’s laps.

Last Sunday I was wondering whether it was a good idea to cancel my trip when I read the Centers for Disease Control wanted to issue a warning that people at-risk for the coronavirus shouldn’t fly. The at-risk people included the elderly (which I would argue shouldn’t include me because I have remained immature) and people with underlying health issues like asthma, which (according to my inhaler) I have.

Lucky me, I’m in the coronavirus sweet spot.

I also read that the Trump administration wouldn’t let the CDC issue that warning, so obviously somebody at the CDC leaked it anyway and thank God for that.

So I could either take my medical advice from a bunch of scientists or Donald Trump (he’s a coronavirus expert – just ask him) and tough as it was to decide I went with the scientists and canceled my trip.

No reporters allowed

The next day Major League Baseball announced that due to concerns about the coronavirus, access to their clubhouses would be limited to essential personnel and surprisingly enough – at least to us – reporters were not considered essential.

I congratulated myself on canceling my trip and started writing about talking with ballplayers and the difference between a group interview (an excellent place to collect clichés) and a one-on-one conversation (this is where you find out the good stuff).

Then came the news that the NBA had canceled its season because a player had tested positive.

Just like my term paper on outfield positioning, an article on interview techniques seemed irrelevant.

A cynical point of view

After the NBA’s decision, MLB decided to cancel spring training the next day and some people are praising the people who run baseball for that enlightened decision. But the NBA canceled Wednesday night and MLB let spring training games start on Thursday before they had a meeting and decided to cancel as well.

The cynical point of view (and I pretty much subscribe to the idea that you’re either cynical or ignorant) is that the people who run big league baseball knew they were going to look like head-in-the-sand idiots if they didn’t follow the NBA’s lead and cancel.

If the situation gets worse (and the people who should know assure us it will) anyone who continued to expose crowds to the virus will get roasted alive. Which may or may not kill the coronavirus…someone ought to ask Donald Trump.

Once the dominos started falling, people in positions of authority could not cancel large events fast enough.

First I heard no crowds over 1,000 people, then I heard someone said no crowds over 500 and before I went to bed last night someone else trumped everyone else’s bid and said no crowds over 250.

I always wonder how people pick these numbers out of the air and if you don’t think that’s how they’re doing it, how come it’s always a nice, round number?

If someone said no crowds over 253 people, I might believe them. Right now I think everybody is covering their collective asses because when things get worse, they don’t want to get blamed.

On the other hand, even if they’re doing it for the wrong reason I still think they’re doing the right thing.

Are games meaningless?

Currently there is no shortage of people saying these are just meaningless games and not as important as the public’s health and I agree with about half of that.

I agree that people in charge should cancel sporting events, but I don’t agree that they’re meaningless.

One of the cool things about sports is it brings us together as a community. Before they screwed things up with luxury boxes so the rich wouldn’t have to rub elbows with the rest of us, a bank president could sit next to an auto mechanic and have an argument about the merits of a suicide squeeze and argue as equals.

Being a bank president doesn’t make you any smarter than anybody else about baseball.

Buy a ticket to a sporting event and you never know who you might sit next to and what you might find in common. People from different walks of life are forced to mingle and find themselves sharing a common interest.

I’ve been through three trips to the World Series since moving to Kansas City and during those runs you could start a conversation with just about anybody anywhere by saying: “How about those Royals?”

The night the Royals won Game 6 of the 1985 World Series I was watching the game at home and afterwards, had to leave and find a bar so I could talk with somebody about what just happened. I spent the evening sitting at a table of formerly complete strangers talking about the chances that the Royals would win the Series the next day.

Anything that brings us together and makes us forget our differences is not meaningless.  

I don’t remember getting asked or asking who those Royals fans voted for in the previous presidential election, I didn’t know what god they believed in or what they did for a living or how much money they made.

None of that mattered…they were Royals fans.

So if you’re a basketball fan, ice hockey fan, wrestling fan or baseball fan I hope we get through this crisis soon and things return to normal, because sports are not meaningless.

And if you’re a baseball fan I’ve got a pretty good article on outfield positioning ready for you.

Here’s hoping I’m still around to post it.