This pandemic will finish, and when it does, please take me out to the ballgame
Then, as if I wanted to retreat back into the last nine months’ somber mood of being able to count the people I’d personally seen on my fingers and toes – with toes sparing – I’d see the scary, New Cases and Deaths from the pandemic, as well as unemployment and food lines.
I just wanted the holiday season to go away. Nobody comes out of my chimney this year. Who knows where Santa has just been? Is Rudolph masked?
Not a single leaf in front of my window. And for the next 100 days, almost certainly more deaths per day for longer than ever before in US history, including the Civil War.
But desk work never sleeps. I realized that my wife and I had a Friday deadline to let the Washington Nationals know how we were going to take advantage of the 50 percent bonus we got on our unused 2020 season tickets.
“What?” I thought. “Baseball tickets? Sit jammed face to face with 40,000 strangers and die? Or maybe lose my sense of taste and smell? Who needs it? “
Like many others, my wife and I are part of a group that hacks up their season tickets – we go to five games a year. And if you paid $ 400 for Washington season tickets in 2020, you got the same tickets for the 2021 season, but you also got $ 200 in Nationals Park credit. Your choices: 1. Get more tickets for free; 2. Get free food, drink, and team material; or 3. Donate your bonus tickets to charity.
I asked myself, “What choice do I make?”
Then it hit me: for the first time in nine months, I decided where to go next to a grocery store or a walk.
This pandemic will affect millions of people for years, from deaths among family and friends to lost jobs and businesses. But for those of us who end up living it, the pandemic’s oppressive feeling of isolation and social division is almost over.
Perhaps in May, June or July my family and friends will be in a pack again, cheering without masks in Nationals Park.
When will indoor sports like NBA and NHL be back with fans? When will they allow 100 percent capacity again? No idea. But I would bet my not pitching arm that baseball will be back next summer. And since those present will be the ones who no longer fear the crowds – but, like me, can’t wait to be among them again – we will probably go crazy after “Strike Two” or a leadoff walk.
It is almost a necessary human defense mechanism to deny how much we miss the things or people we are missing out on. If you choose the free liquid refreshment option at a game, the lottery will not be successful. But I was grinning.
What finally struck me was the certainty of a familiar future with an approximate date – baseball next summer. It will be different for everyone. But it’s time to choose these things and enjoy the view of them. Perhaps a year of our life will be shrunk until it fits in a thimble. But we’ll live by the gallons again.
Until then, this winter will be hellish, with both abstract concerns and real dangers, especially for those of my demographic. I don’t have an on-call helicopter to take me to Walter Reed. This week one of my oldest friends, then his wife, tested positive.
But just as it is destructive to refuse to face reality, like the maskless idiots who are still among us, we also hurt ourselves when we step into a wormhole of negativity, loneliness and whenever it ends the blues . Especially when it runs out on almost all the signs.
If science has already given us two vaccines that are over 90 percent effective and more drug companies are close to similar breakthroughs, Covid-19 is in intensive care.
The grass outside is brown. But on my computer screen there is a photo of the public golf course that closed for renovations in 2020 and reopened on May 1st. It’s so green. Guess who will be there – best vaccinated.
There are signs – just like winter, snow, the shortest days, and most infections – that everything will return to an altered but deeply cherished new normal, just not quite. This week I went to a ghost town – downtown Washington. I couldn’t find a parking space near the Washington Post and I even saw pedestrians – in large numbers! “How great is that?” I thought.
The correct message angle is usually “What’s new?” So we will be inundated, as we should, with analyzing how much the pandemic has changed and how our lives will continue to change. Only in sport is there no owner, manager, player, agent or union boss who has any idea what the profitability – just the core revenue basis – of a sport will be like this decade.
But I ran a workgroup from one – Mr. Pent-Up Demand. I don’t know how much or how fast I want to spend time indoors in the crowds. Science aside, there will be memories and scars from this pandemic. Some places may not feel right even after returning to normal.
But one of the big stories after the pandemic won’t be the new one. It will be the huge demand for familiar and beloved places, events and environments that are not equipped with a Covid-19 cloud. Each his own.
A sporting event outside with a packed house: it’s as old as it gets. But just wait. In a few months, it will feel so wonderful that you’ll swear it’s brand new.