My softball league organized anti-viral games last week. No umpires, no official scorekeeping, and plenty of space between players. We couldn’t sit in the dugout and had to line up along the fence when we weren’t in the field. We had a great time, and it was definitely good to be playing again.

One thing of note: We actually had fans in the stands. I saw lots of masks and not a whole lot of closeness on the bleachers. It struck me that not only were we players starved for baseball, but so were the fans. (I don’t know for certain, but it’s possible a couple of the Braves’ players were in attendance incognito. Hard to tell with the masks and all. They may have been the ones carrying ball gloves, hoping one of the teams needed a last-minute player.)

And it all happened on the heels of the Major League billionaire owners bickering with the millionaire players about whether or not we’re going to have an MLB season this year.

Understandably, the owners want to make money with their product. And the players believe their talents should be rewarded. But, hey, as we’re constantly reminded by at least every other TV commercial, “We’re all in this together.” (Wish I’d copyrighted that line last year.) Sacrifices are being made by many. Step up to the plate, dudes. It’s your turn to suck it up.

I gotta ask both sides of the diamond here: Do you guys really want to play this year or not? I mean, as of this writing, your negotiations are sounding rather play-groundish in nature. Here’s kind of what I’m picking up.

PLAYERS: We want all our money.

OWNERS: Not for half a season.

PLAYERS: Then we want half our money.

OWNERS: If we can’t put fans in the stands and charge them $11 for a lukewarm beer and $8 for a mediocre hot dog (Dodger Dogs notwithstanding), we can’t afford to pay you even half your contract.

What both sides needed to do from the get-go was involve the fans in the decision-making. Putting them in the mix might have created a different conversation.

FANS: Look, you simpletons, if you’ll just start playing, you’ll both make money. Owners, people are starved for sports. Even without fans in the stands, you think your TV ratings and revenues aren’t going to go through the roof? And players, even the newest rookie in the league is going to make $280,000 for just half a season. Most of you are going to take home substantially more than that. Are you telling us Bryce Harper can’t get by on $13 or $14 million this year? How much ARE those Philly cheesesteaks anyway?

PLAYERS: But what about our safety?

FANS: Oh, for cryin’ out loud. So you take turns dressing in the clubhouse and sit six feet apart in the dugout. With no fans in the stadium, you could all have your own section in the grandstands. (That might even make it harder for the Astros to steal signs.)

OWNERS: We ARE going to miss that hot dog revenue, though.

FANS: Look, every restaurant in the country is doing takeout. Put together a “Ball Game Special.” Fans call up, order ballpark franks, some popcorn, and maybe even a couple of beers to go. Set aside designated Covid-proper eating areas in the parking lots with big screen TVs all around and let people watch the games from there. You could even have the cotton candy/peanuts guys (properly-masked and gloved, of course), walk through the crowd and sell their wares.

OWNERS: That’s not a bad idea.

PLAYERS: Then you could pay us what we’re worth.

FANS: Guys, try to remember you’re playing a kid’s game. And most of you would be in the same economic boat with the rest of us if you weren’t blessed with better-than-average hand/eye coordination.

PLAYERS: Well, we just don’t know . . .

FANS: Okay, look. NASCAR and the PGA have already kicked back into gear. And the NBA is about to start its tournament. You could have had just about everything to yourself in the sports world for the last two months. Instead, the only thing you’ve shown us is that you know how to bicker with each other. Think about it this way: How much money are any of you making now?

OWNERS: Hmmm. You do have a point.

PLAYERS: We haven’t seen a paycheck since February.

FANS: You think that’s gonna change without you boneheads figuring this out soon? We’re ready for action now. You go any longer, and we might just start following hockey instead. It’s your move.


©MMXX. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer