Editor’s Note: As part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature, today we travel back one year and one week ago to August 3, 2020 when Major League Baseball (MLB) cancelled the highly touted Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa, near the set of the 1989 movie of the same name as the game.
Fast forward to 2021, and the St. Louis Cardinals have been replaced by the New York Yankees as the team facing the Chicago White Sox among the corn stalks. But to be fair, MLB had always wanted the Yankees to be involved in the game but had only added the Cardinals back when they switched to a regional schedule for the 2020 baseball season.
Of course, the change in White Sox opponent is really the only thing that has changed between last year when the game was cancelled, and this year when it will be held. COVID-19 cases are still raging like a California wildfire across the country, but apparently people have grown tired of listening to science and decided just to play ball while banning mandates on masks to protect children and others in society.
As noted many times, Field of Dreams is one of my favorite movies. I often quote it as well as Bull Durham, but struggled to find words from either movie to try to make sense of the senseless acts being committed in the name of trying to stay on brand while Rome burns. What I finally came up with is that many people seem determined to “go the distance” to appease a twice impeached one term president even if it means killing people in the process by tying the hands of people actually trying to be helpful and save lives.
We will delve more into the Field of Dreams game in future writings, until then, please enjoy this column from August 3, 2020 to see how little has changed between now and then aside from the fact that hundreds of thousands of people who were alive when this column was first written are now dead thanks to COVID-19 and the actions, or inactions of certain public officials.
It turns out that if you build it in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic, they won’t come.
Such is the case for the highly touted Major League Baseball (MLB) game between the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals that was scheduled to be played August 13 in Dyersville, Iowa amongst the cornfields made famous by the movie Field of Dreams.
On Monday word spread that the game was canceled amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19.
Announced last year, the game was to feature the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees “having a catch” on a specially constructed, 8,000-seat Ballpark near the movie’s iconic diamond. The Cardinals replaced the Yankees on the program after MLB opted for a regionally based schedule.
The cancellation comes as the St. Louis Cardinals became the latest team to get put in time out after multiple players and staff tested positive for COVID-19.
For comparison, the National Hockey League (NHL) reported Monday that zero players, or other personal inside their two bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton have tested positive for COVID-19.
Bubbles work, but MLB owners burst the bubble approach by demanding that they be free to move about the country, or at least move about regionally, to play ball in their Ballparks.
It is no secret why MLB wanted to be bubble free. Houston Astros owner Jim Crane was brutally honest when he said he wanted as many fans as possible in the Ballpark buying t-shirts and concessions in order to recoup some lost revenue. As I noted at the time, that was one of the most tone-deaf statements I ever heard an MLB owner make.
COVID-19 cases continue to rise from coast to coast, and within MLB dugouts. As a result, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred warned over the weekend that the season could be shut down if players do not do better containing the spread of COVID-19.
During an interview with ESPN Manfred stated, “the players need to be better. But I am not a quitter in general and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable.”
Manfred made those remarks, as 20% of the league was sidelined in an attempt to combat two separate coronavirus outbreaks.
The “I am not a quitter,” and it isn’t my fault, remarks reminded me of a couple of other people who were faced with making tough decisions as the reality of a situation bigger than themselves crashed in upon them.
On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned from office by uttering in part, “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.”
Putting the interests of America ahead of his desire to finish his term, Nixon became the only U.S. president to resign from office.
Rob Manfred could learn a lot from Richard Nixon in how to, as the late Kenny Rogers would say, “know when to fold them.” No, I am not saying that Manfred should resign, although I have seen rumblings from others thinking that he should.
It is time for MLB to resign themselves to the fact that the 2020 season is a lost cause. MLB tried to have a season. No one can take that away from them. Walking away now, and canceling the season before it gets worse is the honorable thing to do.
Instead of making a graceful exit, and doing a proverbial flyover in Marine One, Manfred seems determined to follow the example of another Republican president by using the blame and deflect game as he puts lives and careers at risk to seemingly serve his own self interests of proving that he isn’t a quitter and we would have had a season if not for those meddling kids being kids in the middles of a pandemic.
Yes, some players are leaving their hotel rooms when they travel and are potentially getting exposed to the virus. But they are just as easily exposed during the constant travel from ballpark to ballpark.
For Manfred’s apparent role model for taking zero responsibility, consider the actions of the 45th President of the United States who has blamed nearly everyone under the sun for making him look bad with the spread of COVID-19.
Yes, Mr. President over 156,000 Americans willingly died of COVID-19 just to make you look bad. That is some next level narcissism for someone to believe that.
Instead, over 156,000 Americans died in part due to a lack of centralized leadership and messaging coming out of the White House. Oh yeah, and the rush to reopen everything when we hadn’t flattened the curve didn’t help either.
In lieu of a national plan, we get attacks on doctors and the media who are both engaged in trying to get the truth out and help save lives as they try to fill the leadership void. We also get attacks on governors for not managing the one of 50 different ways the United States is attacking COVID-19.
Like the effort to combat COVID-19, MLB is also suffering from a lack of leadership and messaging. If MLB was playing games in a bubble, I would give them way more leeway to try to get the situation under control. But they aren’t, and it isn’t.
Perhaps showing that players are not really buying into a belief that MLB has their best interests at heart, more and more players are opting out of the 2020 MLB season.
I cannot blame the players for deciding that the risks to their health are not worth playing ball in the current COID-19 climate.
It is time for MLB to ease the players pain and try again next year. The National Football League and College Football also need to take notice and realize that sports outside of a bubble don’t work.
MLB let greed guide them over science. If the NFL and NCAA play football in the fall it will be an equally greedy endeavor.
I have said it before, and it bears saying again, how on earth did we let ourselves get here? We really have no one to blame but ourselves. Thankfully we can also all be part of the solution.
It is time to corral COIVD-19 and not try to return sports and other areas of live to normal while over 1,000 people a day are dying. These aren’t normal times, but they could be if everyone would just commit to wearing a mask and keeping their distance.
Such simple things to do, yet thanks to political lines being drawn, and a leadership vacuum, we are all left to fend for ourselves and hope for the best.
There is an empty Ballpark nestled among Iowa cornfields ready for baseball to return there in 2021, it is time for the 30 MLB Ballparks to do the same.
Of course, if we fail to get a handle on COVID-19, there may not be any baseball next year either. Much like He-Man of the Masters of the Universe franchise, we have the power. We don’t even need to hold a magic sword aloft as we recite a mantra. We just need to wear a mask, socially distance, avoid crowds, wash our hands and act as one nation.
It isn’t rocket science, but it is scientifically proven to work. If we fail, we have no one but ourselves to blame.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bubble hockey to watch.
Copyright 2021 R. Anderson