I guess it could be argued that in the grand scheme of life, all baseball is ultimately meaningless. In the ordinary days, it provides a distraction and a commonality that is reassuring. While these days are anything but ordinary, that reassuring presence has been missed.
Whether it makes sense for baseball, or any sport for that matter, to attempt to resume play at this point in a pandemic can definitely be debated. I’m not an epidemiologist, there is a definite logical path that leads to gathering large groups of people needed to create a professional sports event is a completely illogical idea. Nevertheless, there is an illogical part of me that is looking forward to watching a baseball game this summer.
We know that games are going to look and feel and sound completely different. The lack of people in that stands creates means that not only will the ball parks look empty (plans for cardboard cut outs of fans aside) but they will also sound completely different. The constant background hum of people talking will be gone. And while there is discussion that crowd noise will be played during games, there’s part of me that can only imagine it being like the really bad laugh tracks in sit coms that are distracting with their tinny quality.
Lack of fans in stands isn’t unprecedented; it happened as recently April 2015 when the Orioles and White Sox were playing Baltimore in the midst of riots after the killing of Freddie Gray. I read the book “When the Crowd Didn’t Roar: How Baseball’s Strangest Game Ever Gave a Broken City Hope” last year. It was a compelling read about what was happening in a city and society at large against the backdrop of ballgame played in circumstances like no other. Five years later, we seem to find our selves in a similar place.
I remember watching a part of that game. It was an afternoon game, so I only watched a half inning or so at work, but I wanted to see (and hear) what it was like. It was eerie how quiet it was, but also intriguing to hear the sounds that are normally blocked by the crowd. I hope that some of those characteristics aren’t drowned out by noise in an attempt to normalize what clearly isn’t.
With some of the challenges that are already cropping up in sports restarts, it’s not a given that baseball season will even begin, let alone end. So tonight and tomorrow I’m going to watch the Blue Jays play themselves in practice games in hopes that there may be real games in the weeks to come.
Whether they are meaningful or not I guess will continue to be determined about how you view sports.