The Washington Nationals begin the defense of their World Series title tonight. If that sentence doesn’t give you goosebumps, you may proceed immediately to the adjacent letter without penalty.
Both the reminder that our region’s baseball team is the reigning World Champion and the fact that baseball is finally returning are worthy of celebration.
The Nats versus the Yankees. Nationals ace Max Scherzer versus the best pitcher in baseball last year, Gerrit Cole. First pitch is scheduled for 7:08 p.m.
Yes, we are dealing with a pandemic that’s unrivaled in more than 100 years, with upward of 140,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19 to date. Yes, we are dealing with the most significant racial upheaval in the United States in at least 50 years. And, yes, we are in the midst of a nasty presidential election in a politically divided country.
Aren’t you sick of all that?
There’s perhaps never been a year when we’ve needed the distraction and enjoyment that sports can provide more than 2020. And yet, we’ve been deprived of most sports since March. That blow, on top of everything else, has seemed particularly cruel.
Professional golf and soccer have already returned, providing enthusiasts of those sports a bit of enjoyment. But baseball is historically America’s summer game. Without baseball, despite the heat, it hasn’t truly seemed like summer. But now it is.
Baseball purists may scoff at some of the changes implemented during this virus-shortened 60-game regular season, including using the designated hitter in the National League, starting extra innings with a runner on second base, fake crowd noise in empty stadiums and 30-player rosters to begin the season.
But it will still be baseball.
Fans should remember that Nationals players and staff, some of whom make their in-season homes in Alexandria, are risking their health and that of their families to play this game for our enjoyment – and, yes, for their enrichment.
No, their sacrifice does not rise to the level of first responders, medical workers or those who serve in the military. No one is saying that it does.
But it would be cynical not to see that these players, most of whom are wealthy enough to take 2020 completely off, are taking a health risk on our behalf by taking the field tonight.
So off your caps to The Boys of Summer as they take the field at Nationals Park tonight. It might not quite be a sign, as the author P.G. Wodehouse has written, that “God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.”
But it will surely help.