The 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is set to begin tomorrow as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise from coast to coast like a perverse purple mountain majesty.
If one is convinced to play baseball in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic, it makes sense that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, would throw out the first pitch in the home opener for the Washington Nationals tomorrow as they begin the defense of their World Series title, and MLB begins a social experiment on whether baseball can be played outside of a bubble.
While the role of throwing out the first pitch in the Ballpark closet to the White House historically falls to the President of the United States, it is fitting that the man polls show is trusted by more Americans to lead them out of the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic would be the one throwing out the first pitch of a season that promises to be like no other season that has come before it.
It should be noted that until the current administration ended the tradition, every president since William Howard Taft had thrown out a ceremonial first pitch. Taft started the tradition on April 14, 1910, at National Park in Washington, DC. during a game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics with a pitch to Walter Johnson. The Nationals invited the current administration to continue the tradition in 2017 but they declined, and the team stopped asking.
While the over a century tradition of presidential first pitches came to an end, it is a great gesture by the Nationals to bestow the honor upon Dr. Fauci who, as a true fan of the team, has been wearing a Washington Nationals mask for weeks now.
While there are likely to be detractors who will try to discredit Dr. Fauci, or say he should have better things to do with his time than go to a Ballpark, I say let the man pitch, and I hope he throws a strike to someone dressed up like baby shark.
I also say that we need to continue to listen to his science-based guidance to help us navigate these turbulent politically charged waters where even the act of wearing a facial covering, or mask, has become politicized. COVID-19 does not care if people have grown tired of it or choose to ignore it.
The same group that popularized red hats with white lettering as a way to self-identify as an ardent fan of the current administration could have done a world of good early on in this pandemic had they designed their own red mask with white lettering to “make masks great again.”
I have no doubt that had masks been embraced early on from the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., we would have had fewer deaths from COVID-19, and we would not be leading the world in cases while having to watch sporting events on television instead of the Ballpark.
Instead of thinking of a mask as something the hinders personal freedom, people should think of a mask as a ball cap for their face.
Just like wearing a ball cap protects your scalp from the sun, a mask protects both the wearer and those around them from catching a disease.
Speaking of the consequences of not wearing masks, and following public health guidance, thanks to the virus spiraling out of control like a kayak trapped in an eddy, there likely will not be any football this fall.
Sure, some leagues are not willing to say that yet, but all signs point to no fall sports which will result in billions of dollars in lost revenue from industry tied to professional and collegiate football.
One of the great joys I get each fall is waking up and watching Lee Corso and the ESPN College Game Day crew every Saturday morning. But, thanks to COVID-19 there will likely be no College Game Day this year. Or, if there is, it will look vastly different from years past.
I mean there is no way that students are going to be packing in like sardines waving their signs in the middle of a public health emergency that currently has the upper hand based on a lack of consistent coast to coast containment steps. It is also highly probable that many of those campuses will not even have students on them as schools are likely to continue remote learning as a way to keep students and staff safe.
It should be noted that it did not have to be this way. While, looking back and playing the if only game, is rarely productive, just think if only people had worn masks back in April how much more likely it would be that there would be football come September.
While the jury is still out on whether football will happen in the fall, starting tomorrow there will be 60 MLB regular season games in 66 days. The Toronto Blue Jays have still not announced where they will be playing their home games, but virus willing, a full World Series Champion will be crowned at the end of the shortest MLB season ever. Let the asterisking of the record books commence.
Aside from accepting a shortened season as being equivalent to a full-length season, MLB fans are being asked to swallow a lot this season. From empty ballparks with pumped in crowd noise and cardboard cutouts of fans, to a universal designated hitter, it is clear this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t like the seasons of old.
One other change to the season involves the unmistakable presence of a Nike swoosh logo on the player uniforms.
Despite minoring in Advertising and Public Relations in college, I cringe every time a new revenue stream is created that distracts from the game. Granted, a Nike swoosh in and of itself is not that different from what other sports leagues show. However, a swoosh is a slippery slope to the MLB embracing soccer style uniforms where team names are replaced by corporate sponsors. I truly hope MLB does not head that route.
I am all for sports leagues making money, but there need to be limits to just how far they are willing to go lest a baseball uniform turn into a NASCAR style driver fire suit.
Speaking of revenue streams, with fans unable to go to the Ballpark to buy some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, it seems fitting that a new seventh inning stretch song be selected to properly capture the ambiance of what the 2020 MLB season is all about since there is little sense in singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” when going to the Ballpark is not an option.
With that in mind let me suggest a classic song from the 1971 Academy Award nominated musical Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The song, which I believe totally captures the current response to COVID-19 in the United States, is titled, “Wondrous Boat Ride.”
It goes as such. Feel free to sing along.
There’s no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing
Or which way the river’s flowing
Is it raining, is it snowing
Is a hurricane a-blowing
Not a speck of light is showing
So the danger must be growing
Are the fires of Hell a-glowing
Is the grisly reaper mowing
Yes, the danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing
And they’re certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing
Yes, COVID-19 is showing little sign of losing steam, yet the rowers who want to act like there is nothing to see here keep on rowing and trying to reopen at full speed.
A few weeks back, I mentioned the need for us to feed the right wolf if we are to get out of the current situation. Perhaps, instead of feeding the wrong wolf, people who are denying the existence of COVID-19 are listening to the wrong Oompa Loompa.
As for me, I am going to listen to Dr. Fauci and the other scientists who know a thing or two about pandemics and infectious diseases.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see a man about a Golden Ticket.
Copyright 2020 R. Anderson