Sports used to be America’s favorite escape hatch from the hard realities of life.
For a few hours, whether alone or with a bunch of your relatives and/or friends, you could just kick back and relax, munch on snacks that were no good for you, and get in major spats where everyone knew you would still be on speaking terms when it was all over.
More than merely symbolic, there was a kind of almost reverent moment that occurred at the top of each game. It was when the national anthem rang out.
The whole country would pause, and in those few seconds we would all be of one heart.
Seems so long ago and far away now.
For those of us who are into baseball, the past few months of lockdown purgatory have relegated us to watching reruns of old little league games as we looked forward to the opening of the season.
In no way could we have ever been prepared for what we were about to witness on that surreal July 2020 start date.
Pre-game ceremonies force-fed us a political menu. The emotionally charged images included a video featuring the voice of famed Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman, which popped up on our TV screens to deliver a social justice message.
With what must have been a collective look of shock and awe on our faces, at that solemn moment when the notes of the national anthem wafted through the air, players all over the place did the unthinkable—they took a knee.
If that wasn’t bad enough, here’s a short list of things that twisted America’s favorite pastime into a major league pretzel:
– Cardboard cutout fans watch as compliant players appear with masks over their faces.
– A fake soundtrack is a stand-in for real crowd noise.
– Social distancing rules the dugout.
– Fenway Park treats folks to a 250-foot BLM billboard.
– Oakland enlists the voice of actor Tom Hanks to peddle peanuts.
Adding to the weird opening day was the choice of Dr. Anthony Fauci to throw out the traditional first pitch. It was the game between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals. The infectious disease expert boldly took his place at the pitcher’s mound.
In what looked like a metaphor of his failed public health predictions and flawed computer models, Dr. Fauci threw out a pitch that was off target to the point of ridiculousness.
Kyndall Freer, social media editor for Yahoo Sports, quipped in a tweet that “Dr. Fauci’s first pitch was just trying to social distance from home plate.”
Freer was being kind.
But here’s something that was even worse than Dr. Fauci’s wild pitch. It was the image of him in the bleachers, yukking it up with friends who were fully masked when he wasn’t. His mask had been yanked down to chin level, and he had failed in social distancing to boot.
After critics assailed him, he apparently felt the need to speak out. In an interview with Fox News, Dr. Fauci sounded unmistakably defensive.
“I had my mask around my chin. I had taken it down. I was totally dehydrated and I was drinking water, trying to rehydrate myself,” Dr. Fauci said.
His explanation isn’t flying. There was no water in sight and his lack of social distancing speaks for itself.
Hanks once delivered a line in the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own” that has stuck with a lot of people over the years.
“There’s no crying in baseball!” Hanks’s character Jimmy Dugan says.
Sorry to have to tell you but there is today, Jimmy.
Because in the end, baseball fans young and old are now left wondering if the Boys of Summer can ever be resurrected again.