It’s good to have baseball back, but it’s hard to view it as an escape in these tumultuous times

The political, social, entertainment, education, health, sports and civil-rights elements of our world have gone haywire and coalesced into a giant ball of confusion.

SHARE It’s good to have baseball back, but it’s hard to view it as an escape in these tumultuous times

The White Sox play in intrasquad baseball game last week at Guaranteed Rate Field.


Imagine a World Series played in front of no one.

Six months ago, that wouldn’t have made a bad concept for a bad TV show.

Today, it’s reality.

Of course, we’ve got a ‘‘regular’’ baseball season of 60 games to be played yet, and the World Series isn’t until October.

But the plan right now is for games to be played in front of no one for this entire four-month-delayed season. Crazy.

In case you haven’t noticed, however, these are crazy times.

And I must apologize, but as a veteran sportswriter, I was just plain bored watching on TV the two Cubs-White Sox exhibition games from empty Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field.

Do you know how packed those places would have been for those tuneups Sunday and Monday? Oh, man, it would have been a carnival at each place. Instead, it was like tuning in to a horticulture Zoom meeting outdoors.

Little League games, sandlot games, even old-man, slow-pitch softball games have more color, more drama, more noise than these things. Luis Robert, as thrilling a rookie as we’ve had in town for years, fans in his first at-bat, rips a screaming double later, and what do we hear?


Or, rather, the sound I heard on NBC Sports Chicago — I can’t get the Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network and don’t even want to know why, you genius suits — was, I think, some piped-in, fake crowd noise.

Like we’re watching a sitcom? Like this is radio baseball from 1934 with Ronald ‘‘Dutch’’ Reagan recreating games via telegraph and a block of wood?

Yes, that is what it’s like. That is how strange these days are.

The political, social, entertainment, education, health, sports and civil-rights elements of our world have gone haywire and coalesced into a big ball of confusion.

Maybe, the thought occurs to all of us at increasing moments of anxiety and distress, we’ll have to live like this.

Staying away from other humans? Wearing masks? Never assembling in joyful crowds? Tearing down everything that once seemed stable and secure? Dear God.

Tell me this: What in your life is stable? What is the way it was in 2019?

So far, almost all of the Chicago players have stayed free of COVID-19. But with every pitch, all we can do is wonder who might get sick, what a team will do if there’s a sudden outbreak, whether we even will make it to the World Series?

Some players wear masks, some don’t. Some sit apart, some don’t.

Here’s where politics and health meet humanity. Conservatives don’t wear masks, but liberals do? What has political belief got to do with reason and an infectious disease?

I mean, you wear a mask to help me not get infected, pal. Thank you.

Oh, I forgot: Science is now relevant in everything we do. Our own president doesn’t believe much in it, you know.

COVID-19, which Donald Trump once called a ‘‘hoax,’’ will be gone in a jiffy — by Easter, by summer, by, well, it will just ‘‘disappear.’’

‘‘I’ll be right sometime,’’ Trump said cheerily Sunday.

Even as the Cubs and Sox played, our city roiled with the aftershock of an assault Friday on the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot chastised the police for using excessive force against the protesters, particularly against one 18-year-old woman who had a tooth knocked out by a cop.

But Lightfoot said little about the 49 policemen and policewomen who were injured in the riot, 17 of whom went to hospitals, one of whom had his face and eye severely injured. If you saw videos of the black umbrellas used to hide attackers, the black clothing worn for disguise, the PVC pipes used as spears and the barrage of full cans, bottles and explosives hurled at cops, you might not feel as much sympathy for the attackers.

Ultimate irony? Columbus statues are protected by Lightfoot for, as she says, ‘‘the great discussion’’ issues they can provide. Wouldn’t have anything to do with the clout of Italian Americans here, would it? Nah.

This is Chicago. Don’t forget that. Trust a politician at your own risk.

Baseball used to be an escape from all that. Now it reflects a world turned upside-down, gone half-mad.

With every silent moment between announcers Steve Stone and Jason Benetti — two of the best in all of sports — I no longer heard that soothing, welcoming thrum of regular folks enjoying America’s pastime.

I heard the world.

I heard sadness.

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