The games are over, at least for now.
There’s only so much you can say about that when people are dying and the world is in danger. The playground has always been the place to leave your troubles behind but when no place is really safe, sports can’t be either.
That includes America’s pastime, as painful as that might be.
Baseball may or may not be played again this year. There are no guarantees anymore, and anyone who thinks the major leagues will soon pick back up where they suddenly left off Thursday is either guessing or has a crystal ball that the rest of us have yet to properly study.
That could mean no opening day anytime in 2020, as shocking as that might be. No pennant races, and no World Series to help us get the stink of the Houston Astros off our minds.
Nothing except a long, hot summer without the game that means so much to so many.
The great baseball philosopher Yogi Berra famously declared that it ain’t over ’till it’s over. Well, it’s over, at least for now, after the plug was finally pulled Thursday as games were still being played in Florida.
”It felt like the most meaningless baseball game in the history of the sport,” infielder Matt Carpenter said as his Cardinals played the Marlins in Jupiter, Florida.
Baseball players are lucky in a way. Unlike college seniors who might miss the only March Madness of their life, they still get paid and still have a chance to play when this all gets better.
Not like the guy pouring you a beer or the woman handing you a hot dog. Their jobs are gone, at least for the near future, and the chances of finding something else in a suddenly perilous economy are about as good as they are being picked to sing the national anthem if opening day ever arrives.
Same for the people who guide you to a parking spot, and those who take your tickets. The security guards, equipment guys, broadcast helpers and many, many others are all in the same boat.
While the rest of us might need help finding something to do other than watching sports, they need help just to live their lives.
Kevin Love stood up quickly on the basketball side to pledge $100,000 for team and arena staff hurt by the loss of NBA games in Cleveland. Expect other NBA stars to do the same kind of thing, and Dallas owner Mark Cuban says he’s got a plan to pay his workers even if there are no games.
Baseball needs to step up for its people, too, if only because those in the sport understand it’s the right thing to do.
”My heart really goes out to the people who are living paycheck to paycheck and for whom this is an economic catastrophe,”’ Seattle owner John Stanton said in Arizona.
Here’s hope that Stanton backs his words with his wallet, because a lot of good people will soon be suffering. The official delay is for two weeks, but Stanton said he doesn’t have high confidence that the season will begin on April 9 as now planned.
The original plan to start March 26 was made so a World Series Game 6 would not be on election night. Now there’s a chance it could come on inaugural day.
No one really knows because as good as baseball is with analytics, even the best numbers people can’t say for sure where the virus is or where it will spread. That’s not baseball’s fault because no one outside the sport seems to know either, mostly because relatively few tests have been done in the United States.
”Testing is a much broader issue than just how it relates to a major league team or a sports team,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. ”We’re far behind in this country as a whole in testing and so our stance is that the more testing the better. And we hope our country gets to the point where we can have a lot of testing to better assess the situation and make better decisions going forward.”
Until then it’s anyone’s guess, and the guessing game has just gotten going. So far, no major league players have tested positive for coronavirus, though that doesn’t mean it already lurks in clubhouses and on fields.
Indeed, it’s already been found everywhere from a movie set with Tom Hanks in Australia to a basketball player in the middle of America.
”Man, it’s invisible, too,” Seattle pitcher Kendall Graveman said. ”So we’re really trying to take precautions. But yeah, it’s crazy.”
The biggest precaution is being taken by baseball itself, though there was no real choice. Commissioner Rob Manfred waited until the dominoes started falling in other sports to call things off, then announced a two-week delay that will almost certainly last beyond that.
These are uncharted waters in stormy times. The bottom line is nobody will really know it’s over until it’s really over.
Even Yogi might agree with that, though his thoughts are a little more difficult to channel right now.
The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in New Jersey said Thursday it was closing because of the virus.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
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