The Good Stuff

Baseball in the time of COVID
(Writing time: 30 minutes)

Staying positive is exhausting. I believe that it is my nature to stay positive, to bank on hope, to believe in the good stuff. That’s what I called my first book, by the way, my collection of newspaper columns: “The Good Stuff.” I picked that title because those three words are what drew me to sportswriting in the first place — as a sportswriter, I could spend much of my time writing about the good stuff in life. I figured, maybe, that’s where I could make a contribution.

It’s hard these days to find the good stuff. And even when you can find the good stuff, it’s hard to build the energy to write about it.

This from a (former) reader: “I’m sad to unsubscribe because I enjoy your writing but all things sports are too depressing right now. I don’t want to live in this world.”

I am haunted by those words. To that reader, in case you are still listening, I want to tell you that I understand. Depression rolls all around us too. We are the lucky ones here, I know that. I have a job. My family is healthy, so far. We are together, which is a great gift. When I’m asked, “How are you doing?” I have nothing to say except that we are thankful and, yes, lucky.

But that isn’t the whole story because our oldest daughter lost her senior year in high school. She officially graduated last week in a social distance ceremony that we had to watch online. She will start her college life at home learning (?) online, and it breaks my heart. Our younger daughter will start her sophomore year learning (??) online — she has spent the last year working every day on her tennis game in an effort to make a high school team that, likely, will not exist. A year of her life goes by too quietly.

Such small things — too small to even bring up.

But real things.

These small things pile up. I have seen my parents only from a distance and haven’t seen friends except through the prism of Facetime. My grandmother’s funeral was on Zoom. Several friends have had COVID. Some of them are still recovering even though it has been weeks and weeks. Other friends have lost their jobs and are trying to figure out what comes next. One friend of a friend just died young.

The sports that I have dedicated my life to writing about are simply funhouse mirror versions of themselves.

And, as I say, we are lucky ones. So many people are dealing with so much more … I shudder to mention any of this.

I mention it only to say: Dear Reader, it’s hard not despair. I share the pain you are feeling. I am listening. I don’t know if it does anyone any good to write about Shane Bieber pitching brilliantly among cardboard cutouts and pumped-in cheers. I don’t know if it does any good to write about Albert Pujols approaching Willie Mays’ home run mark or Mike Trout hitting his first home run as a new father. A large part of me can’t help but believe it doesn’t do much good. America feels broken. Nobody has any answers, and yet everybody screams. There seems no end to any of it.

So why write this little baseball thing each morning? I don’t know. It’s the thing I know how to do, I suppose. Does it do any good? I don’t know that either. All I know is that I look at the clock and realize that I have been writing this for 32 minutes, which means I have gone past my deadline. I am out of time. I will try again tomorrow.