By Daniel Dunaief
Here we are, July 23 and it’s time to Play Ball!
The Yankees and the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals are returning to the field. The old familiar rules are still in place, with a few COVID-19 related exceptions, including air fists and air elbows.
So, as professional athletes prepared to return this week to some of America’s favorite activities, I conducted a non-scientific poll, reaching out to a range of people to ask a few sports questions.
Before I get to the responses, it occurs to me to make a suggestion to the many teams preparing to fill empty stadiums with cardboard cutouts. Why not reach out to young, budding artists to get them to send cutouts that the teams could put in the seats? In a baseball game, if a cutout gets hit with a foul ball, the stadium crew could sanitize the ball, put it in a case and ship it to the lucky fan whose cutout was hit.
Anyway, here are the survey results.
For starters, Marie will “probably watch more sports. Not because I want to. But because my husband and children will be clamoring for any available TVs in the house. I hear them say that they would watch chess if it was televised,” she explained in an email.
She suspects watching the game may not be as much fun without fans in the stands.
Although she’s been told she’s a “negative Nelly,” Marie doesn’t think either the seasons or the school year will finish.
Jane, who is more of a sports fan, says she and her family are “so starved for competition and sports on TV and in person” that they’ll likely “binge watch sports” and, when they can attend, will go as much as possible.
They are college sports fans, so they’ve discussed the possibility of football Saturdays without football. She anticipates numerous shortened seasons.
Paula, a good friend whose passion for the Yankees is as deep as her husband’s dedication to the Red Sox, expects the household to have as much sports as before, which means they will have a game on every night whenever anyone is playing. Their sports enthusiasm connects them with their college-aged son. They have been watching exhibition baseball games. They expect baseball may get through the season, particularly with large enough rosters. She isn’t optimistic about hockey, basketball or football.
A New England fan, Luke will probably watch more of the Patriots and Tampa Bay football teams, because of his interest in Tom Brady and Cam Newton. His daughters are more concerned about their own leagues than the pros. He thinks the NBA might make it 20 games and the NFL about 10.
Robert calls his Phillies’ watching a “family ritual,” and he looks forward to spending time together cheering on the team. Last year, his family splurged for expensive seats near the infield for the first time and were looking forward to repeating that this summer. They also love watching the Olympics, which will have to wait until next year.
His family hasn’t discussed the return of sports, which may reflect a phase of “acceptance given all the suffering going on in the world.” Still he anticipates “huddling together on the family room couch” to watch the Phillies. With strong testing programs and without fans or crowds, he anticipates that the shortened season will conclude, even if case numbers rise.
Finally, Jenn, who doesn’t watch any sports, caught a few moments of the Yankees-Mets game at Citi Field, which she continues to refer to as Shea. She observed that there is “something so viscerally communal about sports it seems so sad and empty without the community” of fans. Some of those fans, however, will be coming together in person and at a distance, to cheer on their teams.