Note: Opinions expressed do not reflect the collective thoughts and opinions of DoubleDay Double Talk.
March 13th, 2020
These are strange times. The Coronavirus/COVID-19, which has been spreading throughout the world since late last year has now come to the US, and having major effects in our everyday lives. Many of us didn’t know what to make of it. As recently as last week, I didn’t see its full relevancy in my own life. News began trickling in and we were dismissing it as recently as last week and didn’t really see it having any affect on our own lives.
Then it hit us where it hurts Americans most: our sports and our money.
This week, two NBA Players were found to have the virus including Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert, days after he was mocking the prevention measures in a press conference. That news quickly called the NBA to suspend operations indefinitely. Later, the NCAA stopped all basketball conference championships, and March Madness became March Sadness. Major League Baseball suspended the remainder of Spring Training and the start of the season by at least two weeks. The June NCAA College World Series is already canceled, since the current college baseball season is done.
Lines are atrocious, and Costco is seeing people lined up past the Tire Center just to get in. Stores are out of toilet paper everywhere. Hand sanitizer is selling on the black market. Are we completely over-reacting as the stock market crashes?
Let’s step back for a moment.
This moment we find ourselves in, no matter how it plays out, is historical, as philosopher Rob Bell noted in a podcast this week.
“There is this sense that we are in a moment before The Moment…” he said, and that uncertainty is what gives even the most optimistic pause.
A time like this has the possibility to bring us together as humans, to remind us that we are all intimately connected as well as the frailty of life. This is not a China problem, an Italy problem, or an America problem. This is a problem we are all facing as world citizens: what do we do?
This is a baseball blog – and baseball has often played a unifying force in our nation to provide a sense of normalcy in troubled times. Throughout World Wars, oil spikes, natural disasters, and a slew of other maladies like the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, baseball has played on. This was famously brought to words by actor James Earl Jones as author Terence Mann in the 1989 classic Field of Dreams:
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game — it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”
Yet this time it is different. “Coming together” and bonding by keeping the games being played could be the kindling that continues to spread this virus. We still just don’t know so much. Is it a bad flu?(10x deadlier). Is it being over-hyped by the media? (Define over? If it wasn’t, would you be staying home? And if you are ignoring the warnings and not taking extra precautions and end up carrying the disease further, was the bravado worth it?) Or are we being incredibly too lax about it and the US will end up with what we are seeing in Italy as the healthcare system is over-run and people are forced to stay in their homes with threat of fines?
We. Don’t. Know.
Like sports, sometimes in crisis we end up seeing the worst of humanity.
We see xenophobic riots against Chinese and others of Asian descent, and indignantly state how it won’t happen in the United States. People are slamming Italy for being just so dirty (apparently people haven’t been to a Hometown Buffet in awhile) as it goes to lockdown while the death rate goes over 1,000 people, or rationalizing that 1,000 people is nowhere near the death rate of the average flu annually. True – but the point is that this is also different and separate than the flu.
There are positives to be found in this moment. We see the stock market drop and our abstract belief of wealth, success, and safety that goes with it. Maybe it just doesn’t matter so much. We see a country like Italy brought to its knees and yet in the chaos comes a new sense of community that would not have emerged on its own, with singing in the streets and neighbors helping neighbors.
“At a deep level we lost this profound sense that we are all intimately bound up with one another. It alerts and activates ancient primal truths about how deeply connected we are with each other. An invitation to be together in new ways.” – Rob Bell
The world is growing increasingly socially isolated, and with that comes more loneliness. Perhaps we use this time to make the phone calls to loved ones and old friends we’ve been putting off because we are so busy. Busy with work, busy with social engagements, now many of which have just stopped.
We don’t know if this will soon pass and the events of March 2020 will look like drastic over-reaction or if the actions of March 2020 taken by the professional sports leagues and schools across the nation will help lead to the slowdown of COVID-19 across the United States. Or if this is bigger than we realize and it’s already farther than we imagined. We just don’t know.
In this crisis, some NBA Players are stepping up to help others affected by the closures, including rookie Zion Williamson who has offered to pay the salaries of all the workers at the arena his team plays at for a month who will be without paychecks. He said this about the move:
“These are the folks who make our games possible, creating the perfect environment for our fans and everyone involved in the organization. Unfortunately, many of them are still recovering from long term challenges created by Katrina, and now face the economic impact of the postponement of games because of the virus.”
This from a 19 year old rookie. I saw the question posed why more owners aren’t following his lead, except for Mark Cuban. An answer pointed out that the owners have been wealthy for so long they don’t remember what it was like to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Many of the NBA players aren’t so far removed.
Yes friends, baseball will be back. The season has been delayed for two weeks, and that delay could easily last longer as we fight this virus collectively and ensure that it does not spread. We have to take actions together to make sure it doesn’t. This isn’t about not being in the vulnerable section of the population, but it is about protecting the vulnerable part of the population. That is a humanity goal, not an individual goal.
This field. This game. It will be waiting for us when the time is right, calling us back to times gone by and looking ahead to better times.
I’ll end with a quote from my favorite apparel company Baseballism:
“It breaks our heart that baseball seasons have been cancelled or postponed. Tough times are ahead for all, but we believe where there are no storms, there are no rainbows, and we like to imagine at the end of every rainbow is baseball.”