Meanwhile…On the South Side: Baseball Will Be Back, What About Fans?

We can watch KBO games on ESPN now and Bundesliga soccer has returned as well. There was a skins game among PGA players and, while it was kind of neat to see the pros lug their own bags, they weren’t exactly playing with their own money. NASCAR is back, too. Honestly, that is about all I know about car racing even without a pandemic.

To paraphrase a line from Billy Crystal’s show, 700 Sundays, since the lockdown started I am no longer tethered to the sports world the way I was on March 11. I’m not sure if it’s age, not being around the area where I grew up, the corporatization of sports or some combination of all three, but I’m not nearly the fan I was when I was younger. My interest in almost every major sport has waned each year as I’ve gone from reading the sports page from cover to cover to barely even looking at it outside of baseball season. 

And there it is, baseball season. Every spring, even when I knew the White Sox were not going to contend, I would get excited. Sometimes (hell, most times) I could squint just enough to believe that maybe the Sox had a shot. Usually I’m disabused of such notions by May 15, but I still plan out the games I’ll attend throughout the season: at least one family game; at least one game with my good friend AJ (preferably a Yankees game, his favorite team); at least two day games during the week and I always try to get to the last home game of the season.

I try to get to Wrigley once a year, but I have very strict rules: no 200-level seats, absolutely no bleachers. I spent three years as a security guard in the bleachers, so the thrill is gone for me in that regard.

Even if the season gets played in some fashion, fans won’t be allowed in the stadiums. I’d be excited to watch games again on television and no fans in the seats at a White Sox/Royals game isn’t exactly a big change. But the connection I feel to baseball, even White Sox baseball, has been altered this year. I cringe when I hear people talk about how they need sports in general because this whole thing has shown me that there are a lot of things we thought we needed, but in reality we don’t.

If we get some version of a season, it’ll really just be a shadow. How I enjoy baseball, how I engage it, still won’t return in 2020. If the current situation and restrictions on live events continue, I don’t know what I’ll do. I might still have an interest, but I also know what draws me to baseball and watching a glorified television studio production isn’t it.

It’s kind of like the Grateful Dead. Their last show was in 1995 and no matter what other touring acts with former members comes along, it isn’t the Grateful Dead. Baseball, without a number of live games, just isn’t the same for me and it won’t be able to capture my attention in the same way. Unless, of course, the White Sox are in the playoff hunt throughout the season. I’m not made of stone.

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