First Mike Leake, I guess. Now me.
After Baseball's prolonged, contentious absence, speculation surfaced about some fan connections eroding, perhaps permanently. So I noted with interest when Kilborn, Jim and others subsequently enjoyed a streamed intrasquad scrimmage more than they had anticipated.
I've (well, mostly) stopped short of watching American baseball, but it's more than incremental disinterest or disdain with the sport, which I sheepishly concede happens to me most every spring now. No, after hunkering down and eschewing civilization since March, I'm scared that, like Jim and kilborn, I'll like baseball too! I'm uneasy that it may entertain, as it pretty reliably has for fifty years.
Goodness knows, we could all use non-essential distractions this summer. But fun and games earmarking extensive, quick turnaround PCR tests, for overwhelmingly healthy, asymptomatic personnel, give me considerable pause. Particularly in Arizona, where reported cases and per capita real time death rates are among the highest in the developed world. In-state testing has ramped up from May and June, but I know symptomatic working stiffs and relatively high risk Arizonans who've recently waited about a week for PCR results. Perhaps you do too.
MLB and its contracted labs insist their extensive protocols dont crowd out public access. Even if that's true in a real world sense, I'd argue it probably shouldnt be true, in a health crisis endangering millions and threatening the gross national product. It's not that I begrudge Baseball for trying. It's not their job to eradicate health access inequities. And creatively adapting in order to operate under difficult circumstance, is a fundamental precept of business. Even a federally protected, monopolistic one.
But as a fan and a citizen, I think I should ask myself what the price of my fandom is right about now. It may not be just the usual cost of a ticket or cable subscription. We cant really know all the numbers, with a mysterious novel disease, but right now in Arizona, from what I do see and hear, I'm uncomfortable with what that price may be. Do I really want to lend my patronage or typical enthusiasm to a local entertainment that demands hundreds, perhaps a thousand quick turnaround tests per week locally, for mostly asymptomatic personnel? Maybe not, as local positive rates among the general public activate CDC alarm bells and wildly exceed best-in-class testing jurisdictions, domestically and abroad.
I wont necessarily insist that Arizona demonstrate best-in-class results , or that Baseball needs to hold off until things are "perfect", defined by me or anyone else. These are tough, imperfect choices among competing interests. I just want more equitable testing alignment than Arizona's status quo. And I'd feel that way regardless of who sat in the White House or State House. Not a word of this would be different, if these numbers and occupational disparities transpired under different leadership.
Perhaps the most sobering inequity, to me, is why ballplayers are afforded such special access. Much of the public gets tested because they think they're symptomatic. And they're often infected. About 25% of em. They're waiting in hot car lines, and none of them are waiting and stressing a week for results, so that they can go out and play baseball. They're waiting to protect their physical welfare or their loved ones. Or their paycheck. Some hope for practitioner access, proactively managing their very physical survival.
Ballplayers and coaches likewise derive important health benefits from their more rigorous testing regimens, but let's be clear about the impetus here. They're not tested more extensively simply because they're rich. They're tested and better protected so that they can play baseball. That's a less compelling "survival" story in my mind and not your run of the mill financial inequity. Player salaries may not be the most flattering reflection of our society, but many of us accept that inequity fairly gracefully, in part because we help fuel it.
But this is different and not something I care to fuel or pretend isn't somewhat disturbing. It's just my opinion. Not trying to steal anyone else's joy. It's still a great game. Many of you deserve a break, especially if you work in a hospital or on the front lines, which appropriately is a war term. God only knows. Crack a beer and enjoy the game. You deserve it. Part of me wants to be right alongside, giggling at Locastro, soaking up EE's upbeat dignity, ragging on LAD.
I just cant reconcile my favorite athletes getting tested like astronauts for two months, about to lift off every day, with much starker constraints and choices confronting my neighbors. I think we all recognize MLB's protocols, whether they turn out to be sufficient or not, are absolutely necessary for Baseball to responsibly proceed. But it's only responsible in an exclusive, internal sense. Sorry to prick this bubble, but there's nothing internal or exclusive about a pandemic. Therefore, until all testing resources are more equitably allocated across our region, this fan suspends his daily patronage of major league games.