As a nation, we’ve been engaged in a fierce battle.
Lines have been drawn, champions chosen, data analyzed, and predictions offered. But despite endless disputes, nationwide debates, and hurled threats there can only be one winner.
Because that’s the way it goes… in baseball.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays gave it their all. The bad news is they both couldn’t win. The good news is that they played at all.
But play they did because sports franchises are getting it right. And sure, they have the money to create a bubble and put everyone up in a hotel for two weeks with plenty of testing and tracing and sanitation and masks.
But the point is it’s possible. They wanted to play ball so they did what it takes to get it right.
And they’re not the only ones. Hollywood studios are also creating bubbles, putting their casts and crews in hotels or on campuses, testing, tracing, sanitizing and masking. And TV shows and films are getting made and people are back at work. So it can be done. And that’s the good news.
The bad news is that it requires adding an additional $1.5M per Hollywood budget to keep people safe and untold more to keep a whole league of teams or players safe enough to compete.
But it can be done. Social distancing, masks, hygiene, testing and tracing work.
And it’s giving us a little bit of normal, something that’s sorely needed in this, the winter of our discontent. Numbers are up and spirits are down. And no matter what happens with this election, there will be winners and losers and huge tasks ahead.
So just for kicks and giggles, let talk about baseball instead for a minute. I love baseball. It’s full of weirdos, have you ever noticed? They’ve all got a screw loose. Let’s just start with the hair. There’s gotta be some kind of gene pairing going on there – the gene for baseball talent somehow inextricably linked to the gene for bad taste in hair. And yes, I know, I’m one to talk with hair a half inch long. But that’s the point. I cut my hair short because I know that if I leave it long, it goes bananas and offends anyone sitting behind me at the theatre or unlucky enough to pass me too closely on the street. So I cut it. You hearing me, baseball boys? Unless a panel of women and gay men agrees that your locks make them swoon, cut it. And that goes for the beards, too. I don’t even want to think about where those Smith Brothers beards have been.
And don’t get me started on the bodies. Other sports? There’s a standardized form. Basketball players? Are tall. Swimmers are lean and have big shoulders. Skaters have thunder thighs. Baseball players? Are short and tall and fat and skinny. Lots of them look like the guy down the street. Some of them look like Sumo wrestlers. And yet somehow they’re all geniuses on the field. I love that.
The other thing I love about baseball is that the players come from everywhere. You’ve got your redneck fellas, sure. But you’ve also got players from Asia and Latin America and Africa. You’ve got players who haven’t been taught to read and players from the Ivy League. It’s the most democratic sport out there.
I also love the game itself. The secrets between the pitcher and the catcher and the duel that follows as the pitcher faces the batter. The tension while the ball sweeps to the plate and the batter connects and the crowd roars and the infielders dive to catch a ground ball skimming toward a single and then pivot midair to make a double play. Another batter and the team in the outfield runs so fast they crash into the wall trying to snatch a home run into an out.
There’s a reason it’s the American sport — it’s got something for everyone.
Like the movies.
Don’t get fooled by the very sad closing of theaters. The movies themselves haven’t gone anywhere. In fact consumption of movies and television shows is way up. And yes, we’re stuck at home and lots of us have time on our hands or just need a break from the bleak. But we could be playing tiddlywinks. Instead we’re glued to our screens watching everything from “Succession” to “Call My Agent” to “Fleabag” to “My Octopus Teacher” to “Unorthodox” to “Aeronauts” to “The Report.” And that’s just the high end stuff. There’s all kinds of stuff for folks who want to take a stroll down the other end of the street.
Because movies and television are democratic — there’s something for everyone.
Like nature. America’s famously got “spacious skies and amber fields of grain… purple mountains majesty above the fruited plain.” To say nothing of lakes and streams and rivers and our own dear Long Island Sound. It’s a beautyfest out there and a never-ending challenge and yes, it’s getting chilly but that’s why they make coats and gloves and hats.
We’ve also got all the amazing technology Americans have created in the last few decades — the smart phones and computers, the flat screens and microwaves, the cars that see around corners and park themselves, zoom meetings and social media and platforms and email and twitter.
We’ve got our work ethic – that all kinds of countries deride. But while all kinds of countries have been taking a nap, we’ve been working our democratic behinds off to create all this stuff that everyone wants.
And we’ve got our spirituality. We’re one of the few countries that still worships – in churches, synagogues and mosques and ashrams because we’re democratic, we let anyone worship the way they please and so we do, be it organized religion or just a meditation in the park.
Sports, movies, nature, technology, work, worship — we’ve got a lotta normal to lean into over the coming weeks. And while yes, each one of these areas has challenges, they’re all things we love in common.
So this week, let’s focus on what we have in common instead of what divides us.
Think of that moment when the last batter was struck out and the Dodgers poured onto the field and piled into a heap, just needing to be together, all their wackadoo hairdos and beards, their potbellies and skinny legs, their brown and black and brown and yellow skins all mushed up together — like America in one big bear hug.
That’s an image to hang onto — all of America in one big bear hug. We can get there.