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Stuck in the middle of the pandemic restart tug-of-war

Stuck in the middle of the pandemic restart tug-of-war Stuck in the middle of the pandemic restart tug-of-war

Matt’s Bleacher Shots

Living through a pandemic for the first time is hard. I’m starting to think getting out of a pandemic for the first time will be even harder.

The daily tug of war between those pushing to get things back to the way they were two months ago and those who warn we scientifically aren’t ready to do that is already mentally draining. Just when you hear something optimistic about re-opening the state or country, someone else speaks up to shut that hope down.

It’s hard to argue with either side.

Sure, it’d be ideal to have everyone sit and do nothing while allowing science and health experts to take their time to get a true handle on this stupid virus and figure out how to beat it once and for all. My gosh, 289,000 deaths worldwide caused by a six-month-old virus is serious stuff. It gets around quickly.

On the other hand, most of the human beings I know aren’t made to sit in a giant petri dish for two months, much less two years, as the world’s greatest science experiment. Watching people’s livelihoods and all they look forward to in their daily lives vanish the past two months has been miserable. Fighting an enemy you can’t see or don’t feel the impacts of, such is the case in Taylor County, makes it worse.

Patience is going to wear out soon I sense.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, it is going to be interesting to see how the major professional sports leagues approach getting back to business.

It was encouraging to see Major League Baseball leak its plan for a 2020 season on Monday. I’m OK with 82 games, all against regional teams and in the home stadiums of each team. If 14 playoff teams and additional playoff games are needed to bring in some more revenue, great. I’d rather see the strategy involved with pitchers hitting, but I can live with a universal designated hitter for this year.

Thirty-man rosters and 20-man taxi squads makes perfect sense. And having baseball start on Fourth of July weekend? Could anything be more fitting?

But of course there’s the other side of this tug of war. First of all, owners and players are certain to battle over –– what else –– money before this gets the go-ahead. One can only imagine how unfriendly that might be. There are going to be umpteen health and safety obstacles to overcome.

And there’s that no-fans-in-the-stands thing that really bites. Yes, the competition on the field is the bottom line and die-hard fans will take what they can get right now. But take away the atmosphere and fans and crowd noise and I’m not sure we’re really talking about a big league experience here.

Likewise, the National Football League released its 2020 season schedule last Thursday as if nothing has changed. It’s an optimistic approach for sure, but the league isn’t wrong for putting a schedule on paper for all to see just in case. I remain in favor of the “don’t cancel until you have to” approach.

In the first 15 minutes of having the Green Bay Packers’ schedule in my hands, I did get caught up in the excitement of having actual game dates and analyzing the good and bad stretches of the schedule. That four-game stretch after the bye against Tampa Bay, Houston, Minnesota and San Francisco is a killer. At Minnesota and at New Orleans in the first three weeks are no picnic either.

As a gold package season ticket holder, of course the first thing I look for is that package’s two regular-season games, which this year are both dreaded night games. Ugh! And the second one isn’t until Nov. 29?! That’s never happened in eight seasons. Not ideal, but a Bears game for once will be fun.

After the 15-minute rush, that negative tug hit and sunk the excitement. If social distancing isn’t a thing of the past by October, fans aren’t going to games this fall. I am, by the way, OK with no fans in stadiums in week one (Green Bay at Minnesota). And there’s still those umpteen health and safety hurdles to clear before games will even be allowed to happen. Football is a sport of constant close contact after all.

There’s that sound of air escaping from another balloon.

Back to baseball. Let’s hope that a second stage of spring training can happen in June and regular-season games can start July 3. It would make the best out of a rotten situation that is nobody’s fault. Let’s hope the players and owners can work out the financial logistics. The owners’ initial plan called for an even 50-50 split of revenues for the season, which may basically be TV money if fans aren’t ever allowed. Both sides are obviously going to lose quite a bit of the money they were counting on just a short time ago in February.

The specifics, as they typically are in these labor disputes, are kind of over my head, but the way I read it, the players are fearful a revenue split will lead to owners demanding a salary cap when it comes time to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. In every other major sport, salary caps are part of revenue splits. Baseball players, so far, have avoided salary caps.

As if $330 million for 13 years for Bryce Harper and $300 million for 10 years for Manny Machado isn’t enough. Or $56 for a second-deck seat for a mid-season game against the woeful Pirates and $9 for a hot dog isn’t enough. But what do I know?

I just know I’m ready for someone somewhere in America to step up and offi cially say we’re going to try to get going again and we’re not going to not let some stupid microscopic virus bring us down.

Simplistic and wishful thinking for sure. But right now, that’s all I got.

Matt Frey is the Sports Editor at The Star News.