The pandemic and absence of sports leaves many of us lamenting losses that, when kept in proper perspective, aren’t really that important. They hurt but they don’t do irreparable harm.
This isn’t a lecture. Maybe more of a reality check.
I’ve got my health and my job. Same with my fiancée, sister, daughter and niece. My mother is doing the best that she can in isolation on the Eastern Shore
Other people have it much worse and I remind myself of it each time that I look in the mirror and feel the urge to complain that my last haircut was two months ago in Sarasota.
I won’t be racing to the boardwalk in Ocean City and standing in a long line, with little space between customers, for a bucket of French fries. I mean, seriously? And on a 50-degree day?
But who am I to judge? Except for now.
Being home in May feels strange. One reason I declined an offer at The Baltimore Sun to switch to the Ravens beat was due to my preference for a summer sport. And six weeks in Fort Lauderdale for spring training, of course. A huge selling point.
(The Ravens won the Super Bowl and the Orioles built on their streak of losing seasons, but I never regretted it. OK, maybe for a minute or two. But that’s it.)
Rather than lament everything I miss about covering baseball right now, and it’s a substantial list, I lessen the blow by counting my blessings. And it’s more than being safe at home.
For instance, I don’t miss the travel. I’m not a tourist and road trips aren’t treated as vacations.
Hotel life is fine, except for those occasions when my room isn’t ready despite my Marriott status or I have a noisy neighbor. Then I can turn into a cranky old man. I’m not proud of it.
And don’t get me started on people who hold loud conversations in the hallway at 2 a.m. This isn’t your house. Do not disturb is directed at everyone. Not just housekeeping.
Otherwise, I’m good with a king-sized bed and blackout curtains. And with lobby bars or joints within walking distance. But you can keep the trips to and from the airport, the security lines, the waiting at gates, the delayed and canceled flights, the cramped seating and turbulence. I’ve never craved a small bag of stale pretzels.
I’d also rather eat at home than in a media dining room. Cooking meals with Emily has been wonderful.
I don’t miss standing around the clubhouse as if on a stakeout. The media scrums at lockers. Checking nameplates to see whether the club made a roster move that didn’t leak.
It’s all part of a job that I’m blessed to have, but I don’t toss and turn at night because of its absence. And I certainly don’t sob over the loss of 4 1/2-hour games that follow long rain delays. You endure them, you don’t embrace them.
A former colleague used to talk about the “dreaded eighth-inning turnaround.” When game stories are blown up and frantic rewrites are required because of a late rally.
Don’t miss ‘em.
Walk-offs can be worse, of course. Veterans on the beat develop instincts and start crafting new ledes, just in case. We detail the rallies that might influence the outcome and delete them if runners are stranded.
Writers who aren’t on tight deadlines don’t have to worry about it. If they do so anyway, well, that’s just self-inflicted pain.
I don’t miss irritable players, though the Orioles clubhouse provides a much more pleasant environment than a few that I’ve worked in the past. They make it pretty easy. They’re too young to become jaded.
I kid, I kid.
Have I become jaded?
I love baseball and the rhythm of the season - along with the offseason and spring training. My life’s soundtrack has three rhythms. And while many of my friends and acquaintances have no idea how hard it is to do the job, and do it well, they’re right that ultimately I get paid to watch baseball. So what if there’s a lot more to it?
It’s the romanticizing of the sport that’s faded for me. Maybe due to my age and years on the beat, though others have done it a lot longer and still sound like children counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report.
I envy them.
Maybe it happened after some clubhouse conflicts or my 50th rewrite or my 60th bad travel experience.
Maybe it happened after I saw Aubrey Huff naked. I really don’t know the exact date. It’s more likely an accumulation of events.
I love baseball, and especially at Camden Yards, but I won’t be inconsolable while it’s on the shelf. I miss friends that I don’t see as much in the offseason, but I’ve found ways to stay in touch.
My worries are aimed at people whose pay has been cut or eliminated. The furloughs that are hitting the industry, newspapers, television and radio. My heart aches for them. I wonder about my own security. It isn’t about the loss of pregame notes and lengthy transcriptions.
Let the games begin when it’s safe. I’ll be there if the media is granted access. I’ll keep writing and reporting, no matter the rules. And I’ll be lucky.
Just as I am while typing this story at home. In a recliner that has my permanent imprint on it.