Currently, in my dreams, I see baseball. But these are no ordinary baseball games. In my dreams, stadiums are filled with a fraction of the usual number of fans, each carefully spaced many seats and many rows from each other. Ticket-takers and security staff wear head-to-toe protective Tyvek suits and face masks (adorned with team logos of course). Fans bring in their own food and stadium food concessions are all shut down. Ticket prices have increased by $2 to cover the cost of a mask and gloves for each fan. Players, officials, commentators, and coaches carry verification of their virus-free health status. Ushers, also in Tyvek suits and face masks, disinfect each seat before inviting fans to sit. Despite these irregularities, it is still baseball. Beautiful, wonderful baseball.
Like everyone else, I am hoping for Earth’s speedy recovery from coronavirus. Like all sports fans, I mostly obsess about a speedy return to a world with sports.
I read about two sports fans who landed on a nature documentary while stuck at home clicking through channels. Two bears were fighting for access to the best fishing spot. Desperate to have some kind of competition to cheer for, the sports fans bet on which bear would win. I can relate. Others in the wide world of sports have found even more creative ways to feed the need.
In mid-April, the NBA presented a Horse Challenge featuring eight professional basketball players (six from the NBA and two from the WNBA) challenging each other to a game of horse, in a bracketed tournament format. Each player played on their home court (located all over the country). ESPN’s Mark Jones served as commentator and host. He too was at his own home. Using their phones, friends and family members of the players served as the camera crews on site. Plagued by poor audio and video and a lack of any real action, the event still counted as a game. I hung on each point and cheered for favorite players. Pitiful, I know.
Poring over sports networks, apps and social media, I also got to see gems like LeBron and his wife and kids dancing to Drake’s “Tootsie Slide.” I re-watched “Bull Durham,” “A League of Her Own,” “Glory Road” and other sports movies, and I re-watched plenty of sports TV’s other offerings like old Super Bowls and Mark Buehrle’s 2009 perfect game. I cried (again) as I re-watched games five and seven of the Cav’s 2016 NBA finals. I don’t know what was more emotional: the games themselves or seeing the crowds hugging, high-fiving and cheering. Oh, to be in a crowd of sports fans again.
I appreciated ESPN’s early roll out of their Michael Jordan docuseries “The Last Dance.” Approximately six million other viewers did too. That’s how many watched the first two episodes. (There are eight more to go).
The NFL Draft received the typical hype even though there was nothing else typical about it. Commissioner Roger Goodell, the players, the team owners and everyone else remained at home, except Trey Wingo, who hosted from ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut headquarters. To prepare for the draft, I hung our Browns flag from our flag pole, and wore a Browns jersey and my trusty big foam dawg paw. I contributed my own “Boo the Commish” video to social media which indirectly contributed to Bud Light’s donation to NFL Charities. (Google it). From a technical standpoint, broadcasting the event was exceedingly complicated. To viewers, it seemed to go off without a hitch. Either way, I cheered for the Browns’ first-round pick, Jedrick Wills Jr.
My vision of a coronavirus-safe version of baseball is not based on any actual reports or plans. It only exists in my head. In reality, baseball may be played in Arizona’s spring-training facilities with no fans at all. Maybe they can pipe in fan noise. Either way, I will be glued to the action. Go Tribe.