2020 has been a bad year for pretty much everyone as a global pandemic continues to alter our daily lives. Some of us have lost more than others, but we’ve all lost some combination of routines, hobbies, or jobs. If you’re reading this, there’s at least one thing I suspect we’ve lost in common: baseball generally and the Cubs specifically.
I’ve lost something extra during all of this that I hope you haven’t: my father.
While he didn’t die of COVID-19, that doesn’t really matter in the end. The loss was just as sudden and cruel and he left the same strange, unrecognizable world from which too many others have also departed in this unfathomably sad year. I can’t presume to speak for any of the countless others grappling with loss, but I find myself craving any sense of normalcy and routine we can safely achieve. For me, baseball represents at least a small part of that.
Just as I hope all of you are doing, I continue mostly to stay home as much as possible, wear a mask when out in public, and take whatever other steps I can to keep myself and others safe. We’re living in an altered reality no one could have imagined just a few months ago. My particular world is unshakably linked to my own experience of loss in it.
Everything feels tied in with my dad’s death and it’s hard to move forward when the world hasn’t. There are obvious reasons we can’t and shouldn’t ignore the reality imposed by necessary safety precautions many of us are still learning how to follow, but that doesn’t make the experience feel any less abnormal.
Baseball’s return represent one small step towards normalcy, something to get excited about and engage with. Even having something other than [gestures vaguely at all of this] to get upset about would provide a welcome reprieve from the unending crush of real life. Baseball is something my dad would have recognized.
The impact of stay-at-home orders on mental health has been significant, and not just because of the people we’ve lost. Part of the reason the pandemic has been so disruptive to individuals’ mental health is that it hasn’t just been a routine disruptor, it’s been a routine destroyer. And when it comes to mental health, routine matters.
Bringing back baseball, as long as it can be done safely, would reintroduce a satisfying and healthy routine for people that care about it. Even if the differences are slight, making the world a little more predictable would offer glimpse of the world we’re trying to get back to.
It can help us try to move forward. It would help me to move forward.
Can it be done safely, though? I obviously don’t have the answers there and my own optimism has waned as outbreaks surge in states with major league markets, including Texas, Florida, and Arizona and as various summer camps deal with COVID-19 cases among players and staff. And let’s be clear, if it can’t be done safely for everyone involved, it shouldn’t be done.
However, finding a way to hold the season safely would benefit more than just the players, owners, and other individuals who owe their livelihoods to the game. Baseball might seem like an superfluous luxury that’s far too trivial to really matter in the grand scheme of things, but that’s precisely why it would be beneficial to bring the game back.
Those ordinary things are taken for granted until we no longer have then around. Then we quickly realize they’re what we miss the most.