Put aside, for a moment, the callousness of the idea of risking people’s lives to have Major League Baseball play games in Arizona in “relative isolation” that isn’t really isolation at all.
Put aside, for a moment, the inhumanity of asking hundreds of athletes, coaches, and other staffers to sequester themselves in Phoenix hotels for the entire summer, away from their families at a time of crisis, so they can put on a show for the masses and help politicians to present the United States as a place where we’re as close as can be to business as usual.
Put aside, for a moment, every reasonable concern about the logistics of baseball, or hockey, or basketball, resuming operations in relatively short order.
Independent of all of those vital issues, each of which should be enough to make the leagues forget about trying to force themselves back into action, are you even really going to want to watch these games?
Would it really be a good experience to go through a day at home, struggling to balance work with the challenge of existing at this moment, and then turn on a Royals-White Sox game being played at a spring training park in Glendale, Ariz., with no fans?
Imagine the play-by-play…
“Steve Cishek on the mound now for Chicago. I was talking to him before the game, from six feet apart, of course…”
“Yup, gotta keep up that social distancing.”
“Anyway, Steve’s from Falmouth, Massachusetts, and he’s got a GoFundMe page going to try to raise money for some of the emergency medical workers on Cape Cod who’ve been through a real tough time here. The 0-1 to Alex Gordon…”
*THUD! BANG! BANG!*
“Rattling around a bit in those empty third-base stands… anyway, the address for that GoFundMe…”
When sports come back, it’ll be refreshing to have something new to watch, but playing in front of empty seats for an extended period of time has a chance to do more psychological harm than good. The thing that people want as a distraction will necessarily be a constant reminder of how wrong things are.
There is a big difference between a quirky version of Wrestlemania — which included some different elements and actually served in some ways to move wrestling forward — and attempting to play team sports, every day, trying to be as normal as possible at a time when nothing is normal.
On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “It makes sense to at least plan what a re-entry into normality would look like. That doesn’t mean we’re going to do it right now, but it means we need to be prepared to ease into that.”
To “ease into that” means to get the barbershop and the bodega open, not the baseball league. Getting sports going again before the rest of life feels anywhere close to normal is a mistake. Not only because of all of the risks it would pose to physical health and all of the damage it assuredly would do to the mental health of everyone involved, all in the name of recouping some of the money leagues are losing. It’s a mistake because the best justification for doing any of it — to let people experience a kind of joy that is missing — is impossible to achieve under these circumstances.
It will be a wonderful thing when we can go back to having sports. It will be a terrible thing to do it too soon.