Last night, I dreamed I was back at Camden Yards and you were there, too. The popcorn smelled glorious and the kids tugged at the sleeves of their parents when the guy with the cotton candy got within shouting distance of their seats.
That day will come again, but it can’t be rushed.
Sure, I want to sit in my seat in the press box and trade barbs with Roch Kubatko. You want to go back to the upper deck or the club level … or a barstool at Pickles Pub.
The ballpark has been such a big part of all our lives that the thought of spending any significant chunk of the summer without baseball — or whatever activity you want to share in close quarters with dozens or hundreds or thousands of your friends — becomes more frustrating with each day that the coronavirus lockdown continues.
But this is not the time to blink.
By now, you’ve probably figured out that I’m not just talking about baseball and the other games people play. Like most everybody else, I’m stuck at home being bombarded by dueling cable news channels that, not surprisingly in a nation of 320 million people, can find an expert to say just about anything that supports their particular world view.
We are showered with “facts” about a disease that is still largely a mystery to the brilliant scientists who are trying to figure it out and the countless health care workers who are risking their own lives in the fight to keep it from killing hundreds of thousands of people in our country and millions around the world.
We are caught in a growing debate over the balance that must be struck between saving lives and salvaging our battered economy. Who would have thought that we would be pondering such a devil’s bargain trying to figure out how many senior citizens and immune-compromised fellow humans we’re willing to trade for jobs?
No, this is definitely no time to pull that homemade mask over your eyes, too.
Which brings us back to the comparably trivial issue of when the Orioles or the Ravens or whoever might be able to take the field again in front of their adoring fans. The people that rule professional sports are working furiously to find ways of putting their games back on television, even if that means keeping the seats empty and the gates locked.
Major League Baseball has floated a couple of big trial balloons — the “Arizona alternative” that would have all 30 teams start the season in that state playing in fanless spring training ballparks and a temporary Cactus League/Grapefruit League realignment that would split the teams evenly between Arizona and Florida.
With billions in TV revenue and player salaries hanging in the balance, who can really blame baseball owners and the players union from considering just about anything that would keep the season from being a total loss?
Everybody reading this already knows that I think the whole no-fan thing would be a mistake. The short-term benefit of salvaging a fraction of the baseball season while the virus is still rapidly spreading would not be worth even a diminished risk to public health and might actually do serious long-term damage to the sport.
Fans already are going to be reticent about coming back to the ballpark when it actually is safe to do so and millions of them already were content to watch most of the games on those ridiculously cheap 70-inch flat-screen televisions that China was nice enough to build for us.
Better to allow nostalgia and all these months of semi-quarantine to build demand for spectator sports and other forms of in-person entertainment until there is an effective vaccine or proven life-saving treatments for the virus. Better not to take the chance that the transmission of the virus will spike again after we rush back and force a disastrous second round of mitigation that stretches into 2021.
So, let’s just keep our eyes on the ball until it really is safe to come out and play. There are a lot of vulnerable people out there — veterans, senior citizens and millions of people of all ages with underlying health issues. Even aging sportswriters.
Yes, as some of you have already pointed out with your emails and on social media, it’s easy for me to say all that when I’m still getting a paycheck.
It’s a fair point, but I’ll continue to selfishly encourage you to stay home, keep that social distance and ride this thing out.
The life you save might be mine.