BOCA RATON, FL – For baseball fans around the country, this has been a year like no other. In prior times of national stress, during the war years and the financial depression of the 20th century, the sport was their escape from reality. A visit to the ball park was a diversion from life’s problems, like entering an imaginary, peaceful world, to be mesmerized by 18 men engaging in a boy’s game. But it worked… until this year which will go down in sports history as a basically asterisked one. The game has entered a new, fearful era.
Does anyone know or care that the National and American Leagues are now engaging in their playoff games to determine which two teams will play in the World Series? A usual season going back well over 100 years, has had each team play about 162 games. This past one had only 60 in the schedule. The players weren’t even warmed up by season’s end. You know, the virus thing was the culprit and the fans, even those without “the fever” and other physical symptoms, ended up the actual victims. Games were played in gloomy, eerie, sadly empty stadiums. No fans. Instead, cardboard cutouts were foolishly placed in seats to replicate the crowd. A cruel joke. No kids holding gloves, dreaming of making a one-handed catch of a foul or perhaps, the miracle of gloving a homer.
To artificially replace the shouts, screams and taunts of fans, loudspeakers blasted echoed recordings to the players and TV audiences. No scent of grilled hot dogs, no bags of peanuts, cups of beer were dispensed. A horror movie to baseball lovers. A make-believe year. The World Series is planned to take place in a few weeks and where’s the excitement? The games will be played on neutral fields, away from the winning cities and their fans. Who knows if the Series will even take place?
What if, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility, that one competing team, or both, might suddenly have some of their players test positive for the Devil Virus and have the games postponed or even canceled? What if? My concern is that the game as we knew it only a year ago has changed, and not in a positive manner. Fans have to ponder whether next season will replicate this year’s disaster or will it revert to the marvelous ones of the past. We hope that we can once again plan outings with the family to take the trains to Yankee Stadium or Citi Field, mingle with the fans openly, without masks, smell the freshly mowed grass, the tingly smell of grilling hot dogs and just having the fun of getting away from the worries and intrigues of reality.
Although among the simplest of things and surely not the most important aspect of our lives, the game of baseball to its fans, is something to hold on to, a form of security blanket for us. We need it back the way it was.