A Covid World Series Title: A Very Different Feeling
It’s an entirely new experience, not entirely because of Covid. Well, actually …
So there we were, the Moffitts, in our living room, my son jumping up and down, me jumping up and down with him because he was jumping up and down, my wife and daughter smiling broadly while sitting on the couch. Our family has a new appreciation of the Atlanta Braves’ fans, having endured eight straight postseasons that ended in failure. Believe me, we give thanks. We could be the San Diego Padres, who have been in just six postseasons in the last 40 years. Is it better to have loved and lost or to never have loved at all? That’s a question we’ve asked ourselves. Eight years in a row getting that close and being unable to seal the deal … it takes a toll.
This year, of course, the Dodgers finally claimed the prize. But, in a way, it was almost confusing as how to feel. Jubilation? Relief? Sadness for all of the players who had been part of those losing efforts and could only watch from home as their former teammates mobbed each other? Smacked by reality as the celebration was almost immediately tempered by Fox’s reports that third baseman Justin Turner had a positive COVID-19 test? Yes to all of the above.
I know we aren’t alone. The games on television were … different. In person they were also different, especially in the crowd volume as 8,000 Dodgers fans did their best to sound like 50,000, but could not. It was also weird that the “home” team during the middle games of the series were virtually sans fans while the “visitors” dominated the seats and the breezeways and the concession lines. Tampa Bay Rays chants and sound effects echoed off empty seats, often unanswered by the few Rays fans 500 feet away. Crowd-created Dodgers chants were picked up by fans all over the stadium, but even then, some fans seemed to tire of always having to be the initiators. The Moffitts, at our first World Series game ever, did not tire of initiating.
Even after the game was unusual. Turner wasn’t on the field. Then he was. Then he was hugging people. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred refused to wear a mask during the trophy presentations. Maybe he wouldn’t have looked so bloody nervous (or was it guilt?) if he had a mask on his face. Apparently, big shot commissioners don’t get viruses. It was yet another great example of do as I say not do as I do. Regardless, none of it was “normal.” The fact that Dodgers fans could even be bothered by paying attention to things like masks and tests speaks to the enormity of the impact of the pandemic.
Of course such complaints are trivial considering the 200,000 people who have died in the United States since the pandemic began. But, in relative terms, this social event was affected by the virus and therefore had an impact on our ability to celebrate (anything!) and to be lost in the moment. It’s hard to be lost in the moment when a deadly virus is standing right next to you in the room.
Turner‘s positive test and return to the field at the urging of teammates to celebrate the championship gave Dodgers fans pause. Shouldn’t he be out there? He helped them win it. Hadn’t he already contaminated whoever he’s going to contaminate? It was certainly ironic that Manfred had to decide whether to punish Turner for endangering the health of his teammates. Manfred really had no choice but to absolve Turner of any wrong doing considering that no one tried to stop the third baseman as he went out onto the field and his teammates were calling on him to do so. And the notion of Rob Manfred of super cautious pandemic fighter had already been blown out of the water by his 25 minutes on stage with the Dodgers players in management breathing all over them and the trophy and the microphone.
Relief, confusion, conflict. These are not supposed to be the feelings of a team that has just won a title for the first time in more than three decades. But there they were. And they’ll be there again next year for the next team to win it all, unless the vaccines work as well as promised and the players and we the fans can resume our lives as we did before Covid 19, or at least get close to it. Make no mistake. Dodgers fans are grateful. But, it would be nice to celebrate a championship with a real celebration… wouldn’t it?