Some of the most thoughtful commentary to come out of Washington on COVID-19 is arriving neither from pundits nor politicians.
Instead, it is coming from a left-handed relief pitcher.
The Washington Nationals’ Sean Doolittle, who two months ago delivered a stirring string of tweets that got to the heart of what he perceived as MLB’s money-first, safety-second approach to negotiating a return to the sport, has now distilled the biggest problem we now face in July as sports are on the cusp of actually (maybe) resuming:
We’re on a worse trajectory now in many ways than we were a month or two ago because we didn’t put in the proper effort or measures to contain the virus. But we still want to reopen things anyway because, well, we’re tired of all this.
Or, in Doolittle’s words: “We’re trying to bring baseball back during a pandemic that’s killed 130,000 people [in the U.S.] We’re way worse off as a country than where we were in March when we shut this thing down. … We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back. Sports are like the reward of a functional society, and we’re trying to just bring it back, even though we’ve taken none of the steps to flatten the curve, whatever you want to say. … We just opened back up for Memorial Day. We decided we’re done with it.”
We want the result and the reward without doing the work. That’s a feature of modern American culture, and it’s hurting us tremendously right now.
Doolittle continued: “We need help from the general public. If they want to watch baseball, please wear a mask, social distance, keep washing your hands. Like, we can’t just have virus fatigue and think, ‘Well, it’s been four months. We’re over it. This has been enough time, right? We’ve waited long enough, shouldn’t sports come back now?’ No, there are things we have to do in order to bring this stuff back.”
Maybe enough states are sobering up to that reality now, and the numbers will look more promising as the games get closer to being played, but the timing of the convergence of sports returning and COVID surging is inescapable. The NBA, WNBA and MLS are trying to make their returns in Florida, which keeps setting daily records with five-figure positive tests. One-third of MLB teams are in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, where cases are spiking. Teams across sports are reporting multiple positive tests and shutting down facilities.
There’s going to be a level or risk no matter what. But the degrees of risk are important. Right now, it sure sounds like players are uneasy — and rightfully so — about what’s happening.
“There’s a lot of players trying to make decisions participating in camp that aren’t 100% comfortable in camp right now,” Doolittle said.
If they’re not comfortable, should we have the reward of watching them play?