Another view: Bring back baseball. We're not above begging
How desperate are Americans for sports right now? The best measure yet was last Sunday's charity golf match featuring two top professional players partnered with two quarterbacks, one former, one current. It was rainy. It was dull. There were technical glitches. It was full of artifice (like an actual conversation about how Peyton Manning might have chosen Tom Brady's ex-coach Bill Belichick as his caddy). And it was the highest rated golf event in the history of cable television with 6.3 million viewers at its peak. Imagine what Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods thought of that. Here's what they likely thought: Let's make some more of this easy money from America's clearly sports-starved populace.
The sudden loss of sporting events from high school track to National Basketball Association games clearly isn't the worst consequence of the coronavirus pandemic that has left roughly 100,000 Americans dead. It isn't even the worst economic impact as tens of millions have lost their jobs and face financial hardships that participants in "The Match" can scarcely dream about. But make no mistake, it hurts. Sports is entertainment without the predetermined resolutions. It dates to cavemen wrestling or so some experts on prehistory claim. It fills some basic human need and not just the physical fitness or character building of participants. There is a cultural necessity to bearing witness, as a society, to the power, grace and courage of athletes in competition. And that's not even mentioning the cool merchandise. Or the beer commercials.
A chummy outing on the links is a poor substitute. But you know what might do wonders for the country's psyche right about now? A return of the national pastime. We need baseball right now. It's the perfect sport for COVID-19. It's got a lot of social distancing (just look at the whole concept of outfielders and tell us that's not an advertisement for CDC guidelines). It takes place in wide open spaces. There is a minimum of physical contact and participants even wear gloves. Throw in face masks and you likely could not have designed a better game for the times (aside from golf or perhaps tennis if players agreed never to touch the ball).
And while you can probably make the case for other sports where participants stand apart (javelin throwing comes immediately to mind), there is something especially reassuring about a quintessentially American game. Or, as the James Earl Jones character in what is easily the corniest movie about a sport where the average player salary is $4 million per year, explained: "The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has 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 that could be again."
Yes, well, whatever "Field of Dreams." The point is that we need a comfort sport like we need comfort food, and baseball is top of the menu. It doesn't require packing the stands. Playing games to empty stadiums might make the most sense, at least until safe attendance is possible. Baltimore knows about empty stands. The Orioles pulled that feat against the White Sox in 2015 during the Freddie Gray unrest. The good news is that Major League Baseball wants to restart the season that ended abruptly in spring training. The bad news is that there's no sign that negotiations between the owners (let's call them the billionaires) and the players (millionaires) have yet produced an agreement for the benefit of us thousandaires. Not surprisingly, money is considered the problem issue.
So to those folks and their teams of lawyers and negotiators, their publicists and business managers, we can this: Pretty, pretty please, won't you consider the plight of all your fans who desperately want to hear the crack of the bat and the thump of a baseball in a catcher's glove? To make it happen, you're going to have to take a pay cut. The loss of ticket and concession sales changes the financial equation, obviously. But how about both sides not making a ton of money while so many people are suffering? Doesn't that have some merit, too? This may be the week to ink a deal, players and owners. Let's get it done, perhaps donate a hefty share of profits to charity, and let's play ball. The country needs you. James Earl Jones needs you. And all those baseball fans who are stuck watching the Korean Baseball Organization on ESPN? Let's just say the Samsung Lions are no Baltimore Orioles. They need you, too.
— The Baltimore Sun
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