The time for tortured virus metaphors is well behind us, and the notion that the baseball season ending with Justin Turner as a victorious superspreader is somehow just 2020 being 2020 is profoundly lame.
Then again, sports’ relationship with COVID-19 has been profoundly lame, so Turner catching the virus isn’t really the problem. Turner ignoring it in the postgame revelry and Major League Baseball and the Los Angeles Dodgers letting him do so is, because it reminds us for surely the 354th time that the business of sports never owned up to its true responsibility here: Games had to be played, schedules had to be adhered to, inventory had to be shipped to networks, and celebrations had to be held as though this was just another year. In short, business, especially sports business, hasn’t given a damn about the virus once it became clear that actual money was being lost by actual billionaires.
As Comrade Moskovitz outlined, the Dodgers tried momentarily to pretend to adhere to the most elemental protocol—isolate the infectious—and then just said the hell with it. As club president Andrew Friedman said in a response to a question about why his spine suddenly turned all collapsible, “I think for [Turner], being a free agent, not knowing exactly how the future is gonna play out, I don’t think anyone that was gonna stop him from going out there.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, but that would be your job, Andy. You represent the people who pay him, and you do get to keep him off the field, his free agency or love of teammates or any other weak excuse for spreading the virus be damned. Yes it certainly would have sucked had Turner been unable to celebrate with his teammates, but since he went and did it anyway, it actually didn’t suck at all. It will suck now as the Dodgers start manic testing while holed up in Arlington before they head back to Los Angeles to celebrate with the thousands of fans who will Turner it up the way Laker fans did after their championship. Because, damn it, there will be a parade. That, rather than health and safety, is what is required here.
And no, we’ll pass on the pithy “This gets Kevin Cash off the hook for pulling Blake Snell too early” snark-o-gram.
In the end, the Dodgers will not be punished by MLB any more than the Tennessee Titans were or the New York Giants were because, well, fellas gotta be fellas. We simply move on to the next outrage, knowing that sports will not be any kind of example to anyone for anything but “the show must go on and the bank must stay open.” Maybe it’s the Wisconsin football team, or maybe it’s Ryquell Armstead, or maybe it’s what happens if some of the NBA players decide that starting the new season on Christmas Day isn’t worth the risk, but I think we all know how this is going to play out because it’s played out the same way every time. All objections will be ignored when deemed inconvenient or expensive. Athletes and sporting executives will not have to mind the disease when they don’t feel like it, and if this ends up badly, we’ll all amuse ourselves with comparing the Houston Astros’ trash-bin scandal and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lettin’-Justin-be-Justin scandal.
The Dodgers now become the third team in four years to win a World Series and subsequently have to enjoy it surreptitiously. Victory without joy is becoming a habit in sport, which apparently exists without any enforceable rules from within or without, and don’t expect that to change. Health is just one more of those things you file next to safety, science, fair play, and common sense under “collateral damage.”