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SURIANO: America needs baseball more than ever

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There are a few events in a man’s life when it is appropriate to cry, such as when a parent dies, when a dog dies, when a sunset hits the American flag just right and at the end of a certain sort of movie. 

I hope you will forgive my backward, out-of-date opinion on the nature of manhood: It will come to a point. One such movie in which men will cry at the end nearly universally is "Field of Dreams." If you have not seen it, the scene that at least gets me is at the end is when Kevin Costner plays catch with his long dead dad. 

There is another scene in the film, given by James Earl Jones, which in my mind is up there with the best film speeches of all time. Jones said, “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again."

This has all been to say that America needs baseball.

Baseball has always gotten us through our national emergencies. Beginning with our soldiers playing it during the Civil War, to the Great Depression, to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt declaring baseball had to go on during World War II, to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and to Mike Piazza hitting a walk-off in the New York Mets' first game after 9/11. 

Baseball has always been an escape, a way to heal the American soul. Whatever is going on in the world or in one’s personal life, for nine innings nothing matters but the next pitch. Baseball is the closest thing America has to a state religion with its traditions and rituals.The stadium is the cathedral, the players are the priest and the crack of the bat is the choir. They both even have organs.

Numerous churches, synagogues and mosques are closed and so are our baseball parks. From the Yankee Stadium down to the Little League field around the corner, they are shuttered. Unlike other emergencies, baseball cannot go on — we cannot show defiance in the face the crisis by playing on. The stadiums must remain closed until the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is contained. With that being said, the American soul remains hurt and it still needs baseball. 

Baseball represents everything good about the United States. It does not matter who you are, rich or poor, the only thing that matters is if you have skill or you do not. Unlike other sports, you always have the chance to come back, no matter how many runs down you are. 

The great American author John Steinbeck said Americans view themselves not as poor but as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires." He meant it as a criticism of Americans to explain why America never fell to socialism. I see it as a compliment. Americans, no matter how hard the situation is, do not give up hope. 

We do not accept defeat or set back as final. That is why America needs baseball. Not so much the actual games, but the spirit of baseball. America needs the spirit at this time, the spirit to never give up, to keep going against all the odds.

I was comforted by the news that MLB was considering playing in empty spring training stadiums with quarantined players. The first priority must be stopping the spread off this virus. It may seem that sports are not important in the face of this plague, but the soul does call out for distraction among the sadness. 

Whenever it happens, let it be a month or three, the return of baseball will help the country in incalculable ways. It will help the people who are stuck alone in their apartments who are at risk of despair feel connected to their fellow people again.

I would bet there are more than a few baseball fans on the front lines of fighting this virus: Whether they are doctors, nurses, orderlies, truck drivers, cooks, couriers or supermarket clerks. If baseball helps them continue to do their jobs, which I think it will, then baseball is important. 

I am not saying it is time to return to normalcy. I am not saying it is time to open the economy up and get back to work. It would be a deadly mistake to do that before the danger has passed. 

I am saying that whenever we can do it safely, America needs to start playing ball again, because America needs baseball.  

Robert Suriano is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history. His column, "A RINO's View," runs on alternate Mondays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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