OPINION: Take me out to the ball game, maybe

OPINION: Take me out to the ball game, maybe

One of the things that has happened during the year of the pandemic is I lost interest in baseball. Who knows how that happened? It happened. With other things lost during the past year, like live theater, I figure I’ll get back to it sooner or later. With baseball it’s hard to say.

It’s miraculous sports was able to go on at all, when you think about it. During the Second World War FDR wanted baseball to keep playing because it was considered a boost to the nation’s morale. Something along those lines, plus the not-incidental interests of sports as a business, has been at play during the months of the ongoing pandemic, but a major difference has been the sobering question of whether any sport could be played safely. Among the exceptions is golf, which like marathons and the Tour de France accommodates social distancing and takes place all over the place. Most sports take place in a single place.

In June, which was just a few months into the enduring emergency, my advice was to keep an eye out for sports agate: “when you see agate it will be a sign of returning vitality.” Agate is that little type you see conveying game-related info, like standings, box scores, transactions, injuries and the myriad details that make the vibrant undercurrent of the sports world hum. I’ve mentioned before how I was able to follow the Yankees one summer abroad, before the advent of the internet and cable television, thanks to the sports agate in the International Herald Tribune. Its return to the pages of a newspaper in the midst of the pandemic meant games were once again underway. If you’re reading the print version of this column in the Record-Journal, you can turn to page B4 to see sports agate is indeed back.

I was hungry for baseball when I was talking about agate, but interest once taken for granted evaporated. Maybe it was the shortened season, maybe it wasn’t. Baseball without fans in the stands was not the same, and that offered a clue. Until the pandemic I hadn’t realized sufficiently how much of this was driven by social interaction and a kind of osmosis. Going to a game makes you want to follow the game.

In the office or at your local watering hole, the smart TV would have on a game, some game, and even casual glances give a sense of how things are going, not just in the game at hand but in the world of sports in general, thanks to the relentless flow of information crawling across the bottom of the screen. Or maybe somebody would want to know what you thought about how Gary Sanchez was playing, for example, and you’d want to be prepared, at least a little, if for no other reason than holding up your end of a conversation.

But for me those conversations have all but disappeared. I’ve gotten together with people over Zoom for many reasons during the past year, but baseball has not been one of them. The one time I recall thinking hard about baseball was when Cleveland announced it would change the team name. 

Otherwise, maintaining interest has been a challenge. It may take going back to a game, in person. It may not. You have to wonder when it will feel comfortable again.

It’s like waking from a long sleep, and feeling groggy about it. It takes a while to get your bearings. Some day there will be high school football the way we remember it. Some day pitchers will take the mound and there will be a large crowd to cheer them. Will you feel the way you did about it before the pandemic?

Opening day is around the corner. There will be fans in the stands. How many depends on the location and the situation with COVID-19 and vaccinations. Ask me what I think of how Gary Sanchez is playing in a few weeks and I’ll let you know.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or jkurz@record-journal.com.

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