America's New Pastime Is Waiting For the Other Shoe to Drop

Kyle Koster
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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Those who don't learn from history may be doomed to repeat it, but even those who take lessons from it may ultimately suffer the same fate. And the Rudy Gobert Night that shut down sports and sped up the shutting down of the country wasn't that long ago. One need not have an impressive historical tome to recall the events and emotions of the following 48 hours after the Jazz played their last note. Things moved slow at first, then all at once as a new normal was ushered in.

It feels as though we're in a very similar spot right now. News of the Miami Marlins' COVID outbreak has thrust the Major League Baseball season into jeopardy. We've been down this road before. In fact, it was only days ago that we finally got off its bumpy stones and onto momentary smooth asphalt. One great weekend of America's pastime may prove to be just that: a fun weekend with an old fling that leads to nothing of real consequence.

The difference, of course, between now and back in March is our collective understanding of what lies ahead: a sports-free wasteland. Because everyone patting the NBA on the back for creating a bubble doesn't seem to understand that such a plan is tenuous at best as well. And anyone thinking the NFL can pivot to a bubble plan at this late hour isn't considering the insane logistical challenges.

More important is the realization that baseball didn't just shoot itself in the foot. Yes, the Marlins should not have played yesterday. But it's not Rob Manfred's fault that the United States is mired in hell right now. It's not sports league's faults that they're trying to come up with plans forward in the broader contexts of national plans to do nothing and hope for the best.

All sports are taking COVID more seriously and with more thought than what's happening at large. So many people are sitting here saying they told you so — myself included — that this was a slapdash endeavor destined to fail. And that's profoundly depressing considering how much better a chance and how relatively minor the infections are among baseball. We are so deeply and depressingly screwed in the big picture that it hurts to even think about.

So we don't. We wait for the other shoe to drop and make baseball the punching bag. We ask what they expected traveling around like this and make plans for increasingly complex bubble cities that will burden already-burdened communities and bleed resources. We pick winners and losers and make it about sports because that's what we do and the mammoth dingers are easier to comprehend than the horrible truth. We don our partisan jerseys and argue who is rooting for the virus and who isn't.

These are our new sports now. This is our cycle. Strange and haunting and oh so familiar. And bound to happen again down the road.

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