My youngest son, Luke, is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. But more than that, he’s a baseball fan. He’s played since he was four and, just turning nine, has played on all-star and traveling teams. So, like so many other die-hards nationwide of various fan affiliations, Luke was happy Friday night when Major League Baseball (MLB) celebrated opening night after delaying the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have never been so happy to see the Cardinals go down in order. I am just glad they are playing,” he said early in the Cardinals’ season-opening win against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Much to Luke’s chagrin, I flipped the living room big screen back and forth between his Cardinals and my Chicago Cubs. My 11-year-old son, J.D., is also a Cubs fan which makes for some interesting conversations with my wife Sheena, also a Cardinals fan, chiming in. Sheena was gone Friday night, so it was just us boys hanging out.
It was the same Saturday as we joined both the Cubs and Cardinals in progress as we attended a sports card show early. We grabbed some wings on the way home and again flipped back and forth.
Both the Cubs and Cards were 2-1 by weekend’s end, so we were all happy. But more than that, we were glad to see baseball and a major sport in general, back in action. I uncharacteristically invested in the DirecTV Extra Innings package so we could see a lot of games, mainly because it was much cheaper than usual with the abbreviated schedule and the fact that our entertainment budget is robust with very few options to partake in the spring and summer. We took advantage and watched many games over the three days.
I woke up Monday morning looking forward to the late afternoon and watching the Cubs play the Cincinnati Reds. Then, I read the breaking news. The Florida Marlins experienced a COVID-19 outbreak with several players and staff testing positive. That news caused the Marlins game Monday with Baltimore to be postponed as well as the New York Yankees at Philadelphia Phillies. The Marlins had played at Philadelphia so the visiting clubhouse and dugouts needed to be sanitized.
I gasped as I feared the worst. Will the season be canceled? Later, my fears eased a bit as MLB announced that the season will proceed (for now), and any games that are being postponed will most likely be made up later as a part of doubleheaders.
However, that was a small consolation to me as my thoughts turned to the situation here at home. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson still hasn’t made a ruling on contact sports as prep football athletic directors and coaches play the waiting game. What happened to the Marlins doesn’t give much hope for a high school or college football season.
If an outbreak can happen in a league where an organization is sparing no expense to take precautions and millionaires are protecting themselves how do we expect high school and college players to avoid the sickness? How will the Arkansas Activities Association handle an outbreak on a varsity football team? The Marlins situation has to be a concern. It shows just how communicable the illness is.
You also know the SEC is watching what happens with the MLB season as it nears an announcement on its football schedules. Other conferences are watching as well as are the brass at the NFL. The NBA, which starts a reboot this weekend, MLS and NHL all deployed a “bubble” procedure to keep players quarantined. MLB, college football and the NFL are not, which could make them susceptible.
For that moment while I was eating wings with my boys as they argued about who would win the NL Central, life seemed to be normal again. It was a much-needed escape. Then the news on Monday jolted us back to reality again. The MLB season is hanging by a thread, even if they are committed to playing, prep and college football and the NFL season prospects seem flimsy at best. I guess it’s time to admit 2020 and maybe part of 2021 will go on without major sports. In a year of tragedy and major disappointments, that is a hard pill to swallow.