Baseball is coming back. And Bryce Harper apparently plans to drive to summer training camp–or ‘summer camp,’ for short–on an ATV.
If you’re like me, you’re probably having some of the same thoughts, namely:
- Is that Bryce Harper? It’s so fuzzy it could as easily be, like, Adam Morgan or Austin Davis.
- Huh. Is that the Phanatic’s ATV?
- Oh god, did Bryce use Clorox wipes on the handles?
- Oh god, how long would the coronavirus stay on the Phanatic’s costume? As a fictional creature, he’s from the Galapagos islands, and perhaps not well adapted to our mainland viruses. As a mascot, he cannot wash his hands. Either way, the Phanatic has already been through enough this year, in his forced and parsimonious re-branding. This new version of the Phanatic is like the off-brand dolls that they sell in dollar stores, marketing obvious Frozen rip-offs as Very Cold Sisters. Now, now will he also be a walking bastion of disease?
- Oh god, what are we doing?
Yes, it may be that the strain of the last several months is getting to me.
The 2020 Season: Heading for a Wall like Tim Tebow
Obviously, I am partly kidding about my Phanatic-related concerns, but I don’t mean to make light of the situation. Quite the opposite. The spread of the coronavirus is only worsening in many states, and the news continues to break about players and staff testing positive for Covid-19–originally, my own Phillies. Against this backdrop, continuing to press on to an MLB season feels like insanity.
To be clear, I experienced deep relief and tentative joy–that blessed emotional combination–when MLB announced, at last, a framework for proceeding with the season. And I remain glad that a conclusion, if not an ‘agreement,’ was reached so that we can begin forcefully forgetting about the back-and-forth between the League and the Players’ Association. Ideally, we will repress these memories to the depth of the boxes in our mind marked “Middle School.” Even if the next Collective Bargaining Agreement looms, like that annoying person on your Facebook feed, to remind you that middle school continues to exist.
Because the worst outcome for the future health of the sport would have been a failure to have a season due to the intransigence and short-sighted avarice of its ownership. (Seriously. Can’t you at least be greedy on a longer timeline?) If the season is canceled because of Covid, I will miss baseball, but I will applaud the decision. Because now we must all be concerned about the worst outcome for the players and staff. We know that the virus can be deadly even in young and healthy people like the sport’s high-profile athletes, and many staff members are in higher-risk groups.
When we held off the season, it was under the hope that our country would be able to control the spread of new cases of Covid-19 along the parabola of, oh, let me check, most of the other first-world nations. That hasn’t happened, but we are continuing to behave as if it has. If we had contained the virus like Germany or South Korea, we could responsibly bring sports back. Under the current conditions, continuing with the season seems like something that we will look back upon with regret. Despite their long-standing association, I do not think hindsight will treat 2020 well.
That said, I am going to be watching any amount of baseball that we get, even if it is through the splayed fingers of the (washed, sanitized) hands on my face.
Going to a Happy Place
But as I face this prospect with what could even charitably be called mixed emotions, I wonder if we can find two minutes of solace in recalling a time–even a recent time–when things seemed rosier. I was given the opportunity to recall the time that the Phillies signed Bryce Harper, by Matt Veasey of the website Phillies Bell. He posed to me the following question:
You wrote twice (that I saw) at The Turf on the Phillies pursuit of Bryce Harper in free agency. In your own unique metaphorical style, can you describe how you felt when the news broke that he actually agreed to the deal?
I wasn’t sure exactly how he got the idea that I have a unique metaphorical style, but I wondered (to Matt) if it was this tweet:
Despite this tweet, having the DH in both leagues is not in my top 1,500 complaints about 2020. I’m generally in favor of the DH because it creates more jobs for players. And any Phillies fan should support the DH coming to the National League because we’re going to have Bryce Harper until he’s 39 years old. Which brings me to:
Recalling the Bryce Harper Signing, In Metaphor
Imagine you live in a small, single room in a tenement-style boarding house. You have only a mattress on the floor with a blanket: no sheets. The curtain is a rag that’s tacked up over the window, tattered on the diagonal. Whether you are a man or a woman or identify as neither, you have not had your hair cut in a very long time – something we all can visualize at this point. Your hotplate broke, so you are eating cold beans directly out of the can.
And then, there’s a knock on the door. You open up the door and shout, “I don’t believe anything that Jon Heyman tweets anymore!,” expecting to find your surly landlord.
Instead, it’s a guy from Publisher’s Clearing House. You didn’t even know they still existed, had not entered their contest, and were never sure if it was a scam. And he is holding one of those large cardboard checks. But the money line just says “Bryce Harper.”
The guy says, “You’ve just won one Bryce Harper per week – forever!!” And you drop your can of beans, and you are not sorry. You have Bryce Harper now. You say, “That’s amazing,” as you try to smooth your hair and maybe bunch it into a ponytail. “How long is forever?” And the man says “Let’s just say forever and leave it at that.”
You pull on your shoes – you’re tramping on the heels, but you don’t mind, those shoes are falling apart anyway. Taking the large, unwieldy check, you follow the man out into the sunlight, leaving everything in your dim, dirty room behind. You buy yourself a whole pizza and eat it right out of the box as you walk down the street, on your way to get a nice new spring coat and new boots. Because you have Bryce Harper now. Forever.
Two provisos to this metaphor, which I hope is unique if it is nothing else:
- I actually personally love J.T. Realmuto more than Bryce Harper, and was also stoked about getting Andrew McCutchen, so this despair does not encapsulate my feeling about the Phillies entire off-season so much as the despair I had of them not getting Bryce Harper, in particular.
- Jon Heyman is an eminently-believable and sound journalist and a nice man.
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