On September 28, 1920, a grand jury investigated the allegation that eight players from the Chicago White Sox threw the seventh game of the World Series and let the Cincinnati Reds win. This was total devastation for America’s pastime, which was the cultural glue holding the country together.
The ace hitter “Shoeless Joe” Jackson admitted to a grand jury that he was one of the eight players who took bribes from an organized crime syndicate to fix the World Series.
According to local legend, a heartbroken, devastated, and crestfallen young boy went up to him and said, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” And according to some observers, Jackson replied, “Yes, kid, I am afraid it is.”
The fans in those days just wanted to believe that the sacred American game of baseball was unblemished and untarnished by greed.
Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack
This longing for normalcy during turmoil is reminiscent of our current challenge with COVID-19. We desperately want to return to some semblance of normal—a Major League baseball game, Mom and apple pie with family gathered around. We want to go about our normal activities without the fear of becoming infected with a deadly virus or of spreading the virus to vulnerable others, without the fear of death and disability from this nightmare.
We desperately want to turn back the clock to the way things were at the old ballgame. Just like baseball fans wanted to turn back the clock of trust in baseball.
There seems to be a philosophy today that if we go about our lives the way it was, we can forget about this pandemic, and there will be peace in the valley and everything will be just fine.
Baseball fans had the same philosophy that the “fix” was just a misunderstanding. And that this blemish on America’s game would all go away. Here we are, one hundred years later, and we still talk about what became known as the Black Sox Scandal.
We need to recognize and accept and be alert and prepared that COVID is still with us, COVID is a reality, and there is no end in sight for this pandemic. And we need to be alert and aware of risks while we await the elusive vaccine.
By saying “it ain't so” did not eliminate the stain of the fix. And by saying, about the pandemic, “it ain’t affecting me,” we cannot eliminate the fear and risk.
But what we can do is be informed, be responsible, wear masks, limit travel, social distance, stay home when possible, and take care of ourselves, our families, and our communities. This is game seven of the World Series. But this is not a ballgame. A diversion. Entertainment. This is a game of life and death.
If we don’t win, it’s a shame.