The Compassionate Contradiction of Sports Fans

We hear it all the time, all through our mentions, our timelines, our inboxes. How can you want sports back? You can’t ask these players to be unsafe or uncomfortable.

Rarely has anyone with any credibility called for a situation where the players would be asked to be unsafe. We’ve gotten to the point where simply saying you might like to see sports is being panned as insensitive or even dangerous. You’re uncaring or my personal favorite a ghoul. Actually, quite happy to see this word make a comeback even if some hippie used it and it caught fire.

There are some out there who believe this has all been BS. The whole thing, quarantine, closures, social distancing, even the government bailouts. I believe this to be a small percentage of the general population but they sure are vocal. That in no way makes them representative of every individual who simply states they’d like to see baseball.

There are folks who believe the players are greedy to the max and should happily accept a 50/50 split with the owners on revenue. I tend to lean toward the side of never expecting a first proposal to be accepted blindly.

Here’s the thing though. Being compassionate is not a competition. We have people out here trying like hell to show they care harder than anyone else and bashing anyone who suggests they’d like to see someone absorb any risk at all in order to bring back sports. Restaurants are currently calling employees back to work to ramp up for the “yellow” stage here in the Pittsburgh area. Many of these employees were actually making more money on unemployment due to the law providing an extra stipend for those furloughed. Many of them are at the very least saying they don’t feel safe returning to work (even though some of their very own have continued the entire time working). Problem is, once they get that call to come back, the choices are over. They have to come back, or lose the benefits allowing them to stay home.

One of my favorite narratives is how can you ask these players to do anything we wouldn’t ask others to do? Well, as I just illustrated, we are. Where is the outcry for those folks? What about the ones who never got to go on unemployment in the first place, being considered essential from the start? Where are your hashtags? Where are your calls of not believing in science for those who want a Primantis sandwich and a beer in the store? Where was your patience when we expected Mother’s Day level service at restaurants ill prepared for a typical Friday night volume?

Wanting to see sports come back and expecting those involved to maybe understand it won’t be perfect is absolutely a fair thought. I’ll take it a step further, what would it say about a given sport if the vast majority didn’t want it back or said they were fine with losing the sport for a year? The very thing you call un-caring or callous is exactly how these leagues and players have profited for decades.

Next up the folks who want sports back, but if it isn’t with fans it isn’t real. This is silly. Years ago, on a business trip to San Francisco I went into Carl’s Junior and bought dinner for myself, as many of you know there is an overwhelming homeless population in that city so it’s not uncommon to be asked for help quite a bit while walking. I was a young man, and many gave me advice to not give money but instead purchase food. So, I did, I got two extra burgers and went outside to give one to two people outside. One of them thanked me and shook my hand. The other discovered it had pickles on it and cursed me out. Moral of the story, when you are starving, take the pickles off and eat it. None of us fully understand how long it will be before fans en masse can go back to the in-stadium experience. Pardon me if I don’t want to wait for that to get sports rolling again.

NASCAR will be back this weekend. They are going to have no fans; they won’t allow drivers on scene until its race time. Race workers will only be allowed to congregate in small groups. They will only have one reporter on scene. There are to be no practices, no heat laps, instead they will go out and race. Many drivers believe this is unsafe, especially starting in Darlington which is historically one of the tougher tracks to get a feel for. All the big names have still made the decision to drive. The owners and drivers don’t make money if they don’t race and they made the decision that saving their sport was important.

I don’t even watch NASCAR, I might on Sunday. I’m sure I’m not alone, just like UFC found itself some new fans last weekend. The PGA will find its way back sooner than later and yes again, without fans.

Does that mean that MLB players should bend over and take the first proposal or acquiesce to separating from their families for months on end? No, it means let them negotiate, and let them decide for themselves what a bridge too far is exactly. It means, they don’t need your defense. Some of them don’t care how it happens so long as they can play. See, not everyone is set to make nothing for the best part of a year and maintain the life they’ve just started to build. Most people don’t buy a house based on what they have currently but what they will have as years of service take place. Hearing some say that they need fans there for it to feel right is completely understandable for two reasons, one, fans really do provide atmosphere, and two, the players aren’t ignorant as to how they get paid. Forget MiLB players, they’re largely screwed even if it does come back, yet I NEVER hear how they should be happy to sit at home. Funny how that works.

We repeatedly hear from media and politicians this is an unprecedented time, allow me to ask a simple question, how in the world can you expect the recovery from said unprecedented time to be anything less?

Normal. It’s gone for right now. If you want sports to survive it stands to reason you understand they must find their way back to playing. Maybe it’s time we all realize the everyday sacrifices each and every one of us have made was in an effort to eventually start living again. Some things will take longer to return than others, like two white girls bonding in a friendly embrace at Starbucks over their Pumpkin Spice Latte or two strangers hugging in the stands after a homerun, none of that should mean Starbucks should close until those actions are “safe”.

Bottom line, don’t be picky, be grateful.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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