Yesterday afternoon, after walking my dog Norma for the 893rd time this month, I happened upon a snail sliding across a cement block in front of my house.
I watched his slime-coated body curl, then move, curl, then move, curl, then move. I felt a kinship with the little guy. Named him “Yinka” after Yinka Dare, the late New Jersey Nets center. I told Yinka that he was doing great; that with a few more hours and a burst of adrenaline he could make it to his destination. I believed in Yinka and felt genuinely invested in his success and lifelong happiness.
Suddenly, with the darkening of the sky and arrival of rain drops, I snapped out of my spell and ceased dialoguing with Yinka the snail.
That’s when, alongside the cool water, it hit me.
I need sports.
Truly, I need sports. I need to watch Mike Trout at the plate, stepping into a 98-mph Gerrit Cole heater. I need to see LeBron backing down Kawhi. I need to see Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss staring down a John Tavares slap shot.
I need balls and strikes and dunks and blocks and backhands and forehands and Tiger Woods putting for birdie. I need the Zamboni making kids giggle at the word “Zamboni.” I need stupid mascots and overly excited announcers and clever trash talk.
I want to pay $15 for two hot dogs and a Coca-Cola — then watch the mustard splatter, inevitably, onto my shirt. I want the smell of freshly cut ballpark grass. I want the POP! of baseball hitting catcher’s glove. I want to open a newspaper (yes, I still open newspapers) and check the standings.
I want to ridicule the Knicks and marvel at the Yankees and wonder whether Steph Curry’s three-pointer at the buzzer will yet again flutter through the twine.
Hell, I even want the XFL.
For millions of people worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic has been a nightmare of nightmares. And, in the context of life and death, sports mean nothing. I know that. You know that.
But — truth be told — sports don’t mean nothing. They’re an escape pod from the grimness; an opportunity for one to momentarily depart the grayness of day-to-day blah and once again feel alive.
That’s why, when ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported on Monday that Major League Baseball was considering a plan to restart the season in May (with games played in empty Arizona stadiums), I felt my tear ducts begin to dance.
That’s no exaggeration — I wanted to cry from the possibility of once again watching a ballgame.
Was it realistic? Um, probably not — and Tuesday’s statement from MLB (“While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan …”) hardly inspires confidence. There are simply too many X factors for the Majors to return by next month. Too many risks.
But as I sit here, with the rain pouring on to my roof and Norma hiding beneath a blanket to escape walk No. 894, I hope that somehow, someway, the boys of summer will return.
To remind us that life can be what it once was.