Driving down the avenue, it could have been Christmas morning but for the lack of celebratory lights. When else do you have the neighborhood all to yourself, the sound of birds not drowned out by the sounds of city life?
Amidst the deafening silence and still-life painting visual scene, just north of the corner stood a man attached, by a thin leash, to a Yorkie. The man stood so motionless that he might have been a cardboard cutout, placed by neighborhood officials to remind us that life had once roamed the city.
The the Yorkie, unimpressed by words such as “pandemic” or “COVID-19,” found occasion to start yapping at some nearby wildlife as the man stood patiently waiting for the barking to subside. And that was it for blocks on end: all sensory stimulation reduced to a single yapping dog.
Welcome to Armageddon, March 2020, where I bring you life in Berkeley — a community “sheltering in place” since Tuesday morning despite a lack of known presence within the immediate city limits. Lines at the grocery store are mostly outside, with customers lining up 6 feet apart waiting to be allowed in. Despite the community’s best individual efforts, it proves impossible to shop without coming within a couple of feet of someone at some point.
As a result, outside there is much self-consciousness amongst patrons fully unaccustomed to placing more than one Altuve between themselves and their nearest “competitor”. Inside, the mood is more one of apology for avoiding one another “like the plague” without having a short word to express, “I’m really not trying to avoid you and it’s not that I think you’re infected, really I don’t, it’s just that we’re supposed to do this right now and I am trying to fulfill my end of the bargain. Please don’t think I’m a horrible person for going out of my way to steer clear of you.”
Thus I am officially proposing the word “splunge” (with a hat tip to Monty Python) to be added to our lexicon, with the definition as suggested in the previous paragraph. Wouldn’t it be nice to turn the corner of your local grocery aisle, nearly bump into someone, and simply be able to smile and say, “Splunge” while you are treating them as if your bloodline will cease to propagate should the two of you wind up touching the same red pepper?
As for baseball (after all this is still, vaguely, a baseball site), here is where my hopes and dreams currently are for 2020. At one time I was excited to have tickets to Opening Day in exactly one week, but now? I think the most realistic possibility for salvaging a “fullish” season comes from the following set of adjustments:
While MLB has not ruled out baseball resuming as early as mid-May, perhaps June 1st is a more realistic hope for a date that isn’t pushed back yet again. Mid-May is not out of the question, especially if played without fans, as it would require testing only about 1,000 people to ensure that all players, coaches, umpires, and broadcasters can assemble in “The Sequesterdome” for live-ish action broadcast out to the entertainment-starved masses.
But I will choose June 1st — with or without fans, we’ll see — in order to offer some wiggle-room during these extraordinarily uncertain times. With a June 1st start date, I can see MLB extending the regular season one month, banking on decent October weather to allow for a 5-month season (June, July, August, September, October). That translates to about 135 games.
November then becomes playoff season, housed in neutral parks whose climates, or domedness, guarantee that games can proceed. You should probably rule out locales that the likeliest playoff teams call home, although in theory you could play an NLDS and/or NLCS in Houston. But from amongst Seattle, San Diego, Miami, San Francisco, and Anaheim (sorry, Angels, but I’ve seen your starting rotation), venues can be found for November-fest 2020.
So that’s my current hope, if not expectation. At this point, with baseball competing mostly with a Yorkie for my attention and entertainment, I would more than welcome fanless games in May that were telecast to the place in which I am sheltering. And to think this is only Day 2 of a 3 week “shelter in place” order that I fully expect will become 8 weeks. Never more did we need baseball. How ironic that coronavirus commonly comes from bats — but hopefully not the ones the A’s will be swinging.