Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is, and you’ll be surprised to learn this, a politician in the United States of America, and as such is expert at pandering, so his decision to de-mask the state and allow businesses to return to 100 percent capacity has led to the Texas Rangers selling all the seats in still-new Globe Life Field for opening day. It’s called working the crowd, and Abbott didn’t get to the position he is by being anything but an aggressive agnostic on virus protocols in a state that has repeatedly shown itself to be somewhere between tepid and lukewarm to the science. This stance is still a vote-getter in Texas, or so he believes; being an expert on the Texas psyche is more in Comrade McKinney’s wheelhouse anyway, so go bother her.
But the decision to let the Rangers pretend that it’s 2019 is on Ray Davis, the flinty cash magnet who owns the team and has wanted to unveil his expensive new city-bought toy to the people who paid for it since last year. The stadium (it replaces Globe Life Park, which was roughly across the street and only needed to change one word and take half a billion scoots to see his dream realized) has hosted a high school graduation, 30 Rangers games before zero people, and 16 playoff games before some, but Davis’s urgency is at least corporately understandable. Worrisome, quite possibly reckless given the mercurial nature of the disease, but understandable. Ray wants to make some money and is acting in his own best and solitary interests; what happens if and when it goes bad is entirely up to his lawyers’ hunger for billable hours to decide. Cramming in a full park is ostensibly just for opening day (at least for now; these things tend to expand to meet the day’s needs), because that’s the only game sure to sell out, and the team is going to put up plexiglass to keep the players from the fans in a fascinating marketing idea: We Safeguard The Players We Pay And Pass The Danger On To You Who Pay Them.
Under normal circumstances, we’d drop the shopworn “Well, it’s the Rangers, so crowds shouldn’t be a problem” line, but the new-park smell will probably lure more than the average number of customers to a fourth-place team. Subtract the number of Metroplexers who maintain concerns about the virus and … well, I guess this becomes the new standing science experiment on how many people in that neck of the lack of woods like baseball enough to risk the sanctity of their chest cavities for it.
It has long been a stereotypical article of faith that the best way to get a Texan to do something is to tell him or her that it is forbidden, and conversely telling them to do things is the ideal way to get a flat refusal. It’s contrarianism as a way of life, and the entire Texan ethos is based therein. Major League Baseball isn’t going to offer any kind of guideline because commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t pick battles with owners. Thus, you get a yoga-class level of flexibility when it comes to policies on how many people will be allowed to give their hard-earned cash to their favorite ownership group. So with the caveat that this stuff is changing by the day:
TEAMS NOT YET COMMITTING TO A NUMBER OF FANS
TEAMS ALLOWING ZERO FANS
TEAMS ALLOWING BELOW 10 PERCENT CAPACITY
Detroit (1,000 fans)
TEAMS ALLOWING 10–20 PERCENT OF CAPACITY
Arizona (12.5 percent)
New York Mets (10)
New York Yankees (10)
Tampa Bay (16)
Toronto (15, playing in Dunedin, Fla., and eventually Buffalo and Toronto, events permitting)
TEAMS ALLOWING 20–30 PERCENT OF CAPACITY
Chicago Cubs (30)
Chicago White Sox (30)
Kansas City (30)
Los Angeles Angels (20)
Los Angeles Dodgers (20)
San Diego (20)
San Francisco (20)
TEAMS ALLOWING 30–40 PERCENT OF CAPACITY
St. Louis (32)
TEAMS ALLOWING 40–50 PERCENT OF CAPACITY
TEAMS ALLOWING 50–100 PERCENT OF CAPACITY
Texas (all they can eat)
Is there a correct answer here? Probably a lot closer to Washington than Arlington if you listen to immunologists and virologists, but as we have discovered, a lot of people are not only not immunologists and virologists, but not listeners as well. They will all do what they’re allowed to do, but even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, himself a preposterously reluctant masker, hasn’t yet given the Marlins, Rays, and Jays the green light to go full festival seating.
Thus, your health as a baseball fan is going to be up to you because nobody in the sport is going to save you from yourself. If you need the kind of entertainment only Isiah Kiner-Falefa can bring you, well, cave ergo pulmonem (let the lungs beware). Greg Abbott saw and did what any panderer would do, and Ray Davis is doing what any manic capitalist would do. Now you and whatever affection you have for Kohei Arihara get to decide what you will do. Good luck; you’re almost certainly going to need it.