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It’s OK To Really Need Baseball Right Now

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Simon And Garfunkel at Yankee Stadium
Proof that Paul Simon is a “southpaw”

I just don’t feel right complaining about anything these days. Sure we are all suffering, to some degree, for being sheltered-in-place, cut off from family or friends, taken out of our routines. But there is hardship and there is hardship, and for so many right now the level of hardship is immense.

I have been truly fortunate: I am not one of the hundreds of thousands to contract the corona virus nor is anyone close to me. And I am not one of the millions who have lost jobs or faced economic crisis. So I speak today as “one of the lucky ones” for whom hardship and inconvenience are highly relative terms.

So is baseball really so important right now? Objectively no, but viscerally ... well, yeah, kind of. You see baseball isn’t just a game played by men, actions and results, standings and analyses. Baseball is truly a lifestyle that serves, I believe, a deep purpose in nurturing the soul.

When I sit down to carve out 3 hours for the A’s game, in those 3 hours I am transformed from a world of strife, anxiety, and chaos — and into a world in which these elements exist but in an entirely different way. One that I am ok with, one I even await with eager anticipation. It is like leaving the stress (“distress”) of a world riddled with troubles and seeking out the stress (“eustress” — defined as “moderate or normal psychological stress interpreted as being beneficial for the experiencer”) of a thrilling roller coaster ride.

In the search for the gratifying “eustress” form of stress, some folks enjoy the adrenaline-filled thrill of a literal roller coaster ride. For me, afraid of heights to the point that there is no joy at the amusement park, the figurative roller coaster ride of a baseball game, and a baseball season, is the “ticket”.

Never did we need a healthy escape from reality more than 2020: the Year of the Pandemic. Never did we crave more the soul-enriching journey into the daily odyssey of a baseball season. Do I “need” Matt Olson’s swing, Matt Chapman’s impossible plays at 3B, Frankie Montas’ splitter and Jesus Luzardo’s changeup? Yes. Yes I do. Right now more than ever.

Baseball should only resume when it can do so safely, and it should only resume is such a way that continues to be safe. But even as someone who has been relatively privileged during this pandemic, I feel like it’s ok to say, “And I need you” to that family that is the A’s, and that fulfillment that is the daily routine of watching baseball, talking about the games, looking forward to the next game — and having that world to escape to while this world is falling a tad bit short of our hopes and dreams.

This is not new. Fans across America have always needed baseball as more than just a passing fancy. If love can heal, and baseball is love, then my 9th grade math education tells me that baseball can heal. Simon & Garfunkel knew it:

Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you...

I think a baseball season, if they can figure one out, could be part of the healing — or at the very least a big part of getting through this with our souls intact.