The 4th of July raises thoughts of parades, barbecues, fireworks, and a special opportunity to recount the freedoms we enjoy today. Of course in this annus horribilis, many celebrations have been canceled or altered, with some efforts seeming hypocritical.
Baseball has long been a major part of Americana, yet the last professional game was played in October. That changed locally when I attended the St. Cloud Rox home opener Thursday night with a few hundred others. Until Minnesota guidelines change, stadiums only permit 15 percent capacity.
Even here at 46 degrees north latitude, it was over 90 degrees at first pitch and daylight lasted until 9:30 p.m. To top it off, the home team won an extra innings thriller.
The Northwoods League actually began play last month in North Dakota, and it was long overdue, since collegiate ballplayers had their 2020 season canceled nearly four months ago after just a few games. The NWL adopted “regional pods” across the Upper Midwest to decrease travel and enhance safety. The abridged season runs through mid-August, at which time the Boys of Summer will hopefully return to campus.
Also in the Gopher State, the defending American Association Champion St. Paul Saints resumed play, though in South Dakota, then perhaps later this summer in the capital city. And while the Minor Leagues sadly canceled their season for the first time in 120 years, three weeks from now, we should finally see Major League Baseball — sans fans. Hockey will follow.
Much like any “reopening,“ sports are proceeding cautiously and with detailed plans, because adjustments can be made; like COVID-19 itself, it’s not an all or nothing proposition.
Sports media members, as divisive and one-sided as our newsrooms, dwell on negatives and thus have little faith in human ingenuity. They fear the worst because they’re insular and forget life is full of risk.
Let’s get to a point where people realize “spikes” in cases don’t necessarily mean we are doing something wrong. Increased activity comes with risk, but permanent lockdowns aren’t a serious solution and have severe consequences. Most Americans don’t have guaranteed incomes like media, teachers, public sector pensioners and others.
Despite China’s nefarious efforts, our selflessness kept coronavirus matters from getting out of control; death counts are now dropping and there’s optimism about a vaccine. We remained patient and sacrificed to protect our most vulnerable. America can’t continue this way in perpetuity, however, nor can sports.
Freedom by its very nature brings risk but also great reward. A safe day at work is a reward, as is seeing family, and public outings, like an evening at the ballpark.
A.J. Kaufman is an Alpha News columnist. His work has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Florida Sun-Sentinel, Indianapolis Star, Israel National News, Orange County Register, St. Cloud Times, Star-Tribune, and across AIM Media Midwest and the Internet. Kaufman previously worked as a school teacher and military historian.