Sports. Actual sports. Finally.
From youth leagues to the bigs, ways are being devised to compete again, to host games again — and safely, we pray, with appropriate and stringent precautions to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
The return of sports can’t come fast enough for millions of COVID-weary Americans desperate for a diversion, eager for an escape, and hungry for hope that there can be normalcy again, and fun, or at least something other than 24/7 turmoil, sickness, and persistent reality.
Let’s be honest, as entertaining as video-game football and the cornhole championships have been on cable TV — particularly when the portly cornhole competitors slyly slip their masks aside to gulp from red Solo cups — they just don’t cut it. We clamor for more, and who can blame us? Our psyches crave getting lost for an hour or two in something not so heavy, not so life-or-death, and something outside of 2020’s dreariness. We yearn to escape once in a while inside of someone else’s struggle, allowing it only to become our struggle, too, through our fandom and loyalty.
Already, NASCAR racing — sans Confederate flags, and good riddance — and PGA golf are back.
It’s fitting that Major League Baseball appears to be up next. After all, “The one constant through all the years,” as James Earl Jones dialogued in “Field of Dreams, “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.”
And can continue to this summer — under 101 pages of health and safety protocols the details in which “would put to shame the safety team at a nuclear plant,” as the Dallas Morning News’ Kevin Sherrington opined in a column Friday. Players will take health surveys and their temperatures twice a day. They’ll dress and shower at home, “remain as stationary as possible in dugouts,” and wash their hands every half inning. You think you’ve been washing your hands a lot lately; try 18 times per game! They’ll also be required to refrain from throwing the ball around the horn after an out and from wiping sweat off their brows. Let it drip, boys. Bullpen pitchers will use only their own baseballs. And instead of licking their fingers to get a better grip on the ball, pitchers will carry moist towelettes in their pockets.
“Officials hoped these rules and guidelines would ‘return a sense of normalcy’ to our way of life,” Sherrington wrote. “Only there’s nothing normal about any of this.”
Professional basketball is also poised to return in a nothing-normal-about-it sort of way. The season suddenly was suspended in March after players started testing positive for COVID-19. It’s to resume in late July with stringently medically monitored teams sequestered and living and competing “in a bubble” of virus-free (hopefully) isolation at Disney World, as Fox Sports reported last week.
Nonetheless, it’ll be basketball. And baseball, America’s pastime, whether at Target Field, Miller Park, or Fichtner Field in Hermantown. And golf. And dirt-track racing in Superior. And all the rest.
And it’ll be up to everyone bringing back sports — and theater and other entertainment, too, at some point, we know — to take the precautions necessary and to be vigilant in order to stay safe, to make sure everyone involved remains healthy.
They can do all that for the grateful lot of us, because we need the escape and the diversion and the fun and the joy right now. Please don’t make us go back to watching video-game football.