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What the hell do sports fans do now?

Coronavirus crisis has created unprecedented times for baseball, and all sports

Major League Baseball Suspends Spring Training Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back, at the very least to get a fresh perspective. We don’t always make time to do this, but occasionally that opportunity is thrust upon us.

Last week on the podcast, Jacob Burch and I picked our opening day rosters for the Dodgers, and now we aren’t quite sure when opening day is. We know it won’t be sooner than April 9, not after Major League Baseball canceled the remainder of spring training and delayed the start of the regular season by at least two weeks.

On that podcast, both Jacob and I had very similar picks for the opening day roster, really only one difference in our 26-man roster guesses. Not that it was a heated argument or anything, but we actually put time into wondering which one of Scott Alexander or Adam Kolarek might make the roster. Right now, it’s laughable how insignificant that exercise even is.

If one of them were to make the roster on opening day — spoiler alert, both Jacob and I are technically 0 for 26 in our picks, since there won’t even be a March 26 roster — or even if neither made the team out of spring training, it wouldn’t really matter. Both will probably end up pitching relatively meaningful innings at some point during the regular season anyway. We like to think of the active roster as a living, breathing organism that constantly adapts throughout the year.

But that’s not true.

People, like you and me, are the living organisms, and sometimes the breathing part can get tough, especially with a literal pandemic like the coronavirus spreading across the globe. We are what matters, and the last few weeks drove that point home.

Sports are a wonderful escape for a lot of us, bringing us joy, or even breaking our hearts. The games distract us from the less enjoyable parts of our real, actual lives. But despite how zealous we sometimes get as fans, sports are not life and death. When real instances of our mortality comes into play, that takes precedence over fun and games.

Large crowds greatly enhance the spread of coronavirus, which made this week’s stunning events seem inevitable. Of course MLB, the NBA, NHL, MLS, and NCAA suspended play. That didn’t make it any less shocking. The NCAA tournament, for instance, started in 1939, and has been held every single year since, even through World War II. Until now.

March is an unusually busy time for sports, with opening day in baseball, March Madness, both the NBA and NHL heading for the stretch run, and MLS getting in full swing. For at least the next four weeks or so, none of those sports will happen. Which leaves us with an awful lot of time on our hands, even after spending as much time as we can with our loved ones as possible.

The vast majority of stories I wrote for SB Nation dot com were baseball, though I dabbled in other areas, but I literally just joined a new department to write specifically about baseball, covering the Dodgers here at True Blue LA and the Angels at Halos Heaven. The monotony of baseball is a grind, but a new game basically every day allows for opportunities to write fresh material. Won’t anybody think of the content?

1978 Topps

I joked earlier Thursday that I would pivot to baseball card writing, which isn’t as farfetched as I first thought. Sure, I’ll review some 2020 sets, and a few folks have suggested going through some old cards and finding a story in that. It’s not a bad idea at all.

Which brings me to Rick Monday. He was calling, alongside play-by-play announcer John Hartung for SportsNet LA, the Dodgers’ game on Wednesday night against Milwaukee. That will be the last Dodgers game for at least four weeks, since the earliest opening day might be is April 9, and that’s if everything breaks right.

But I’m thinking of Monday’s card from the 1978 Topps set. This was after Monday’s first season with the Dodgers, a down year by his standards, hitting .230/.330/.383 (92 OPS+) with 15 home runs, less than half his total in 1976 with the Cubs. Perhaps that’s the reason for the apprehension on Monday’s face, in a season he was limited to 118 games.

However, all I can think about is Monday touching his face, and it reminds me just how often I touch my own face (this was driven home watching my laptop camera in a Zoom meeting this week). Among the steps the CDC recommends to protect yourself from coronavirus is to “avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.”

I never thought about touching my face before the last two weeks, and sometimes now it’s all I can think about. Until the sports return, I’ll have even more time to think about touching my face. So instead I will distract myself with stream of consciousness posts like these, or maybe other posts about baseball cards.

Well, that and washing my damn hands.

What are you going to do with all this extra time on your thoroughly-washed hands?