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Baseball lifting our spirits

Did anyone else watch two (or four) baseball teams to which they have no loyalty Thursday evening? The start (finally) of this year’s major league baseball season carries so much hope and relief. Our national pasttime is back, even if there are no fans in the stands and commentators are watching and broadcasting from their homes. Maybe this means basketball, hockey and then (cue choirs of angels) football will work out, after all.

It was fantastic to watch pitchers do their work, hear the crack of the bat, and even watch Mookie Betts play in the wrong uniform.

It was wonderful to see the decision made by players and coaches to respectfully make an important statement before those games began.

Though there have been opportunities to watch live competition for months now (cornhole … rock skipping …) this was different. This means some of what we have tried to get back to “normal” is working. Let’s hope it holds.

But because it is impossible to just sit back and enjoy anything these days without current events creeping into my thoughts, I found myself wondering a few things. How many others like me were truly joyful — maybe even feeling a little weight lift from their shoulders — that live baseball was back on tv? It seems such a silly, simple thing. But it makes a difference.

To those who dismiss talk of mental health, it is easy to suggest actors, singers, authors, athletes — entertainers — are not essential, while making bravado-filled statements on social media. But we need those folks so desperately. We needed them to give us virtual concerts and readings; we needed the archives of their past performances and competitions to exist so we could watch them — so we could escape and give our anxiety-riddled brains a break.

We needed virtual tours of museums, we needed the NCAA men’s basketball championship game from 2002, we needed “Hamilton” to be released as a movie. (OK, maybe that last one was just me.)

Yes, those holding truly essential jobs are carrying us through this weird, painful time in a much different way. They are doing the heavy lifting, as they always have. God bless them.

But the people who bring us art, literature, music and sports are lifting, too; and we can’t pretend they are not necessary — that what they do is not an important part of what keeps us healthy and thriving.

It was interesting to me, to see some of the same people who make cracks about entertainers being non-essential flex their high-school-bully muscles again Thursday when Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington Nationals game. Let’s just say the pitch missed the mark, as it does for MOST people who are honored by being asked to throw out the first pitch.

In Fauci’s case, however, it triggered taunts and nasty comments — it triggered the cool kids/jocks whose emotional intelligence has not evolved since they were about 17 and STILL feel comfortable making fun of someone for being well-educated and an authority in a particular academic arena. (And, by the way, to anyone who continues to stubbornly raise the next generation of young people to believe that reading, exploring, learning and becoming smart and capable is not “cool,” shame on you.)

It triggered the kinds of people who don’t understand why it is better for Dan Snyder’s NFL team to be called the Washington Football Team this year than to carry on using a racial slur and imagery to represent its players and fans … or why a similar discussion should be taking place locally.

Maybe you can see why I am so glad to be able to watch live sports again. It is unsettling to see the potential for monumental change — good, necessary change — wrapped up in what seems like so many small things. For those tuned in to the long-term consequences of how we shape our “new normal,” it isn’t easy to turn it off, and it can make one feel helpless and exhausted.

But we’ve got to keep trying. If we can get a little brain break watching baseball and start the next day refreshed, all the better.

Play ball!

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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