Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Pining for the Fjords

I started writing a post this morning based on Ken Rosenthal's piece for The Athletic regarding Major League Baseball's ongoing attempt to revive a baseball season. I found myself increasingly frustrated, as it's starting to feel that I'm just writing the same thing over and over again. Both Rosenthal's article today and Jeff Passan's on ESPN yesterday were excellent looks on how complicated and fluid the plans to reopen the game really are, but the hope that I used to enjoy from reading stuff like this is fading fast.

The reason that I started blogging about the Mets was not that I considered the subject of New York Mets baseball to be the most important thing in my life, but rather it was my favorite temporary escape from the often harsh realities of everyday existence. In the same way, neither I nor any other sane person believes that playing baseball again is the most important objective in our country right now. The only defensible reason for bringing the game back is to provide those of us who love it with an enjoyable diversion from the boredom and worry that are the stark realities of the Coronavirus-imposed shutdown.

When I see a new article on the possibility of reopening baseball, I'm drawn to read it and use it as a subject for my writings in this space precisely because I'm looking for something to provide some hope. I try to retain hope in all things related to my life as it currently stands. I look for things that give me a reason to believe because failure to embrace and nurture hope is to subject myself to living in darkness.

It's not an easy thing to do. Back a couple of weeks ago I wrote about an often malfunctioning traffic light near where I live. To be stuck there for a length of time is to be trapped in a pointless limbo without any control of the situation. It's a decent analogy for life today.

As I peruse the articles already discussed above and countless others, not only on the subject of when baseball might reboot, but also on when life might start looking a lot closer to normal, I do it to provide some factual basis on which to build up my own hope and optimism. I need that right now, I think most of us do.

The problem with speculating on anything desired happening in the future, however, is the failure of the current administration in this country to provide any kind of consistent and cohesive leadership. I've been around for quite some time, as the constant dull ache in my joints could attest, but I've never seen anything like this in the six plus decades of my life. I've disagreed strongly with the political approach of many Presidents over the years, but there was always a feeling that there was someone truly in charge.

Even when initial mistakes are made in response to an emergency situation, as what happened when the Bush administration was slow to react to the realities of Katrina's devastation of New Orleans, they reversed course and made a real attempt to rectify their mistakes. That's called accepting the responsibility of leadership.

What we're witnessing now is what happens when there are people are in charge of our country who lack a true commitment to their job, or even to reality as it currently exists. Not enough testing? Just insist that millions of tests are coming out next week. If next week comes and you get called on failing to keep your promise, just insult the person asking you the question and scream "fake news" until everyone gets bored or embarrassed by the spectacle and looks away.  Distract with quack "cures" and ridiculous theories with no basis in science. Insist that black is white and day is night, and if someone disputes your "facts", label them as an enemy of the people and shout your nonsense out louder to drown them out.

I don't agree with this President politically, but I desperately hope and pray that he will succeed, that he will put the country before what he perceives as what is most helpful to his reelection chances, despite all evidence to the contrary.  What's happening with this pandemic is so much more important than winning and losing in politics. We need him to somehow become something that, time and time again, he seems incapable of becoming. We need him to become everyone's President, not just the President of his Twitter followers.

The problem with any plan to revive baseball, or get us back to something resembling a normal life, is that it's very much contingent on there being a coherent national effort. We must implement as much testing as possible and supplement it with comprehensive plans to stem emerging outbreaks of this disease. Otherwise, everything turns to crap and we need to shut it all down again. For real hope to exist there needs to be a firm foundation on which to base that valuable but elusive feeling.

I remember a time in the very early 70s, when somehow one evening I stumbled across a weird little English show that I never heard of, on the Public TV station I avoided like the plague as a young teenager. It was called "Monty Python's Flying Circus," and it had yet to become the cultural phenomenon it would be a few short years later.

On the very first episode that I watched I saw a bit that would go down as an all-time classic, the "Dead Parrot" sketch. A man was trying to return a fictional Norwegian Blue Parrot to a pet store where he purchased it a half hour earlier because the bird had died. For those of you non-Python fans out there that have never seen the sketch, the comedy arose from the shop owner's stubborn denials that the obviously deceased parrot was actually dead. The argument becomes more and more absurd as it continues, which was where all of the humor in the sketch derives.

The best comedy always has roots in real life. We all have times when we feel like we're trapped in some bizarre version of the Dead Parrot sketch, dealing with someone so unreasonable and divorced from reality that the whole event takes on an absurd characteristic. As we keep waiting and hoping quite futilely that an actual, comprehensive national plan against COVID-19 will be revealed, I'm starting to feel that I'm trapped in a loop of some long, drawn out Dead Parrot reality.

One moment it's our President patting himself on the back for all of his "yuge" imagined accomplishments as his administration drunkenly staggers between magic fixes and finding someone else to blame. The next moment it's a rash of vague assurances that baseball is going to return with a plan that is always short on details. The pot of gold is just over the horizon.  The parrot isn't dead, he's just pining for the fjords of his youth.

Maybe that explains why reading the articles by Rosenthal and Passan over these last couple of days had led to feelings of frustration rather than hope. The promise that somehow, some way, things will get back to normal thanks to some nebulous, non-specific plan just doesn't cut it for me anymore. That won't bring baseball back, and it won't bring our old lives back, either.

Don't get me wrong, I'm going to continue to hold onto hope. But I'm tired of promises based on chimeras and fantasies. When someone comes up with a real, concrete plan based on actual science I'm ready to listen. Until then, let dead parrots lie.

Stay well, everyone.  I'll be back tomorrow.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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