It seems to be an affliction within any baseball writer above a certain age that baseball still has a special place in American culture or society. While media from all sports have tried to claim, at various times, that the sport they cover returning to action would “help” the country, it is far more pervasive among baseball scribes. Probably because there’s this idea, however false it may be, that baseball has ushered us through bad times before. Every baseball writer apparently needs to pen their own James Earl Jones speech from “Field Of Dreams.” It’s also combined with the idea that baseball could never recover from not playing at a time like this. This is why you get paragraphs or whole articles like this, or this, or this.
It’s a load of horseshit.
Whatever level you focus on, it doesn’t work. All of these stories and more pleading for “the sides to come together” or some such fuckwittery. But if baseball returning to action during a pandemic (and now national strife and chaos and a president actively trying to start a race war), then the owners’ claim of. “We’d lose less money by not playing,” shouldn’t matter at all. If “the right thing” is to put on a season in whatever form, then their money concerns should be secondary or dismissed altogether.
And yet it keeps falling to the players to give more back.
How much more do the players need to give back? They’re the ones risking their health and the health of those close to them, which in any other arena, or by any logical standard, would seem like a pretty big sacrifice. They’re the ones who will have to go through the lengthy and thorough processes of testing and distancing and quarantine just to get into a stadium every goddamn day. The only other thing they’ve asked is for owners to prove their claims through actual facts and data. We’re still waiting. The players have mostly said that while antsy, they do want to play. The owners have merely talked about revenues. So who exactly is worried about the right thing here?
Which of course ignores the fact that “the right thing” is to not play. Sports shutting down in March, basically on a dime, was perhaps the biggest indication to the largest group of people how serious the coronavirus is. So what’s more beneficial to people at large: Playing games for our viewing pleasure on TV? Or saying we’re not going to play because this country is still nowhere near ready or able to open in a way that keeps even most people safe? What would be better, games to watch or not taking away a single test or medical professional away from where they’re really needed?
The idea that people would be furious about baseball not playing at this time, and never return is also cockameemee. There’s always a dip, but the NHL, NBA, and MLB each have recovered from work stoppages in the past and will do so again. Fans are fans. Fuck, the NHL had a lockout wipe out half the season just seven years ago and returned to full buildings almost immediately, with record TV deals soon after. And that’s hockey.
This isn’t 1994. With the NBA and NHL returning, whether they should or not, baseball being absent would barely register with a lot of sports fans. There would be something else to watch. This isn’t a void in the middle of August leaving the sporting world with only preseason football. The Premier League will be back in a couple weeks, the NHL and NBA on track a couple weeks after that. The NFL will return to training camp shortly after those. Only the dwindling, hardcore fanbase of baseball will wallow in misery at baseball being absent, and that’s the exact group that isn’t going to go anywhere, whatever they might wail into their keyboards.
Baseball doesn’t hold the same place it did in even 1994. That was just at the crest of the first Bulls run, and the NBA is wildly more popular today. So is the NFL. Esports weren’t even a dot in the scrotum of the sporting landscape. Soccer was still something to be mocked.
As far as baseball as a “healing” force, we’ve repeatedly tried to show what a crock of shit that is. All the usual candidates get dragged out for it. 9/11. Tell me, what has healed since 2001? What is better in this country since then? So we were temporarily placated by watching baseball. If anything, that makes baseball and sports a narcotic. And while I love my narcotics, I don’t pretend they’re the source of long-term answers (except for Red Breast Irish Whiskey).
Baseball gets that shine from 9/11 simply because of its place on the calendar. If the World Trade Center had been attacked and destroyed in December, would it be the NBA that we credited with “bringing us together?” Possibly. We know it wouldn’t be baseball. Baseball just happened to be there, which is kind of its thing.
That’s not to say sports can’t have a place in greater society, and a great influence. But now they tend to be when a player or team stands out from the norm of merely playing the game. Just in the past couple days, athletes individually have shared their feelings and calls for change, and people have taken notice. They don’t need to be playing games to do that. On the other side, the milquetoast and timid statements from teams across the spectrum just show that their revenue is what matters, given how afraid they are to piss off corporations, cops, MAGA chuds, and anyone else. While those owners will remain ungodly rich and continue to fund the powers that are destroying this country and society in whatever fashion, do we simply have to add to their wallets to do so simply because?
If getting back on the field was such an imperative, then we wouldn’t hear so much about financial losses. And yet most of the baseball world, at least the older side of it, keeps carrying water for the owners. And baseball isn’t going to repair anything by simply playing, no matter how much they wish it so.