Tampa – Local baseball fan Allen Cole gave a sigh of anxious anticipation this week as he eyed the 2020 Tampa Bay Rays schedule. “This will truly be one for the record books,” says Cole, 30, a computer programmer who has worked from home since March. “The sort of physical endurance a fan needs for a season like this, a lot of guys won’t be up for it.”
Cole refers to, of course, the fact that the entire Rays season includes just six days, none consecutive, without a televised game.
“A normal season has regular stretches of two to four days without a game,” says Cole. “The guys I know use those days to catch up on work, read to their kids, maybe call their mother. It’ll be real hard to do that this year.”
A condensed season with nearly constant games presents other challenges, too.
“With fewer games in total, I’ll probably go through fewer cases of beer,” Cole admits. “But never before have we seen this concentration of twelve ounce curls. You’re going to see a lot of guys that usually drink right handed adding some left handed days to their rotation.”
A unique season presents more than just physical challenges. Sports fans are emotional, sometimes egregiously so. A season with fewer nights off presents fewer opportunities to balance expectation, loss, and reality. Cole agrees.
“After a tough series loss, you know, maybe you dive into a work project or take your wife to dinner…whatever you gotta do to forget that loss for a while. With all these games, it’ll be hard to find time for lesser obligations. The real pros will get through it, though.”
Allen’s wife Donna, 31, speaking to us during a brief break from her eight hour New Girl marathon, has fears of her own.
“Allen hasn’t shaved since March,” says Donna, a part time hairdresser. “He usually does one of those damn ‘playoff beards.’ If this season bleeds into No Shave November…he’ll be able to play Joseph in our annual church Christmas play.”
Hygiene concerns abound for Donna, who indicates Allen has taken exactly eleven showers since his employer began work from home operations. “I’ve counted,” she contends.
Allen, to his credit, is resolute in the face of mounting skepticism.
“The work you do in the pre-season is so important, now more than ever. But you can’t lose sight of your daily preparation…do I have enough sunflower seeds, is there an afternoon start today….these are the questions that can really ruin a good season.”
In a year of mounting uncertainty, it’s impossible not to see the glint of optimism in Cole’s eye, a fan at the peak of his game.
“You train your whole life for the chance that a season like this might happen,” he says. “To finally have this opportunity to prove yourself…it’s truly special.”
At Press Time Allen Cole had not responded to three requests to take out the trash.
A few weekends ago, Crystal and I went out to one of our neighborhoods nicest restaurants, a steakhouse, for a spur of the moment night out. We had been “out” to dinner a few times in the time since the State of Florida began to lift some restrictions, but this was the first “fancy” night out since, probably, my 30th birthday last November. When I went to get dressed – opting for a pair of pants I had worn on my last day in the office in March – a problem presented itself: they didn’t fit! In March, the navy blue chinos were almost too large, now they were the opposite: too tight. I quickly shifted to a pair of fashion forward jeans that were far more forgiving and still plenty acceptable for the steak house in question. A great, delicious evening was had by all.
My quarantine weight served as yet another example of all the impacts that isolation has had, on me and plenty more. Crystal and I intentionally ate poorly at the onset of all this, which I admitted in my last post, but even as I reigned in my habits I still wasn’t seeing the scale follow suit. I spent a few days brooding over this, especially considering I had committed several weeks of effort into a rough draft of a book about weight loss and now couldn’t fit into my own pants. For years I’ve been a champion of not being too hard on one’s self, now more than ever. The episode with the pants, though, served to challenge my own narrative. A new wave of anxiety ensued.
My renewed anxiety was furthered by a revolving door of “hurry up and wait” narratives, both in my own mind and in the public consciousness. We learned this week that our honeymoon cruise, scheduled for late September, is now cancelled. This capped a months long personal saga spent trolling internet news sites for headlines about the cruise industry and whether or not our ship would sail. Elsewhere, I’ve labored over whether or not my loved Tampa Bay Lightning will get another shot at the Cup this year or whether the Buccaneers signing of Tom Brady will even ever matter. As a sort of barometer of progress against the virus, I’ve followed the ups and downs of the release date for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet”; nearly every day there has been news that the release date was going to be moved back, it’s been moved 2-3 times, two weeks a pop. I’ve asked, endless times, will this be the week that we see a turn towards normalcy? What about this one? How about now? It’s been a season of hurrying to wait further still.
Finally I resolved to put all that aside. Saying nothing of making the best of a bad situation, I opted to focus on the little things. The things that, when this is all said and done, I’ll sit back and say I miss about this era. Here are a few:
I’ve written extensively on this blog about my love of reading. With nowhere to go, no lengthy commutes, no new movies, and the heat of summer, my rate of consumption has exploded. I hadn’t thought of keeping track early enough, but I’ve probably read 15 books since leaving the office in March, the majority of them in the last month and a half. Both out of a desire to keep my budget in check and a lack of any more shelf space, the majority of these books have come from the library, a resource I’ve been neglecting for years. I imagine my reading will continue at elevated levels when this is all over, but the pace I’m on will be unsustainable once we’re back to normal.
Traffic is something nobody complains about anymore. Even those among us that leave for jobs in essential fields don’t experience much of it. Meanwhile, we never have to wait for a table at our local breakfast spot anymore. We had a similar experience at Walt Disney World: wearing a mask in that heat was a real bitch, but waiting no time at all for attractions that normally garner two hours lines was a rare treat. These and other businesses, of course, cannot survive like this for long. But being able to come and go so easily has had for me, a consumer, a relaxing effect.
I never could have guesses that we’d be beginning our lives as homeowners and a married couple like this. That said, spending so much time waiting for something else has left plenty of time to be…together. We’ve burned through all seven seasons of New Girl (a show that predicts COVID-19 in it’s final season, it’s true!). There’s been plenty of time in the morning for coffee together. More than ever there have been opportunities for after-dinner walks, lunch by the pool, and sunsets on the back patio.
My last post here was published on January 31st, the Friday before the Super Bowl. That morning I tackled the subject of what low carb snacks to consider serving during the Big Game, this seemed like an important topic in those days. That weekend I also shot, edited, and posted to Instagram a whimsical video on the same subject. In the time since those posts, everything – the whole world – has changed. I’ve always considered myself something of a wordsmith, but I’ve struggled in the time since March to cope with and grasp what was happening well enough to put coherent thoughts on paper. Since the pandemic came to the States in March I’ve bought a home, postponed my wedding and honeymoon, moved, transitioned to a completely work-from-home lifestyle. Everything, like for so many others, is different. Here, finally, are my collected thoughts on three and a half months of quarantine.
Control and Flexibility
If the quarantine has taught me one thing it’s that the view that we are in control of our lives is an illusion. Think about it, even in The Land Before Covid, would you have agreed that the weather, traffic patterns or train ride delays, the songs your favorite radio station played, the actions of your co-workers, and your boss’s attitude had generous impacts on your day? I know I would have, they make HUGE impacts on five out of seven days a week. Yet, we’re in zero control over these things. The virus has magnified this reality. Crystal and I had been planning our April wedding and honeymoon for over a year and we were weeks away from both when, with much agony, we had to postpone.
The additional lesson that this reveals is that life and love demand flexibility. Things worth having are worth waiting for. I remind myself that, in the scheme of living together another 50+ years, an additional five months won’t seem like so much looking back. But time isn’t, of course, the only factor: the collective weight of being so close to one of the biggest days of our lives to see it fall into uncertainty is devastatingly traumatic. One cannot help but ask “What did we do to deserve this?” The inconvenient answer: Nothing. Things like these are out of our control, like with so much else in our lives.
We can control, though, two things: How we prepare and how we respond. If we are merely paddlers in the river that is life, we can nevertheless make sure we have a sturdy canoe and a strong paddle.
One of the first things Crystal and I decided to do, in the wake of working from home and postponing the wedding, was to – temporarily – indulge in a little careless eating. Taking some control back from the virus and diving into snacks and foods I hadn’t eaten since childhood brought nostalgia in waves sufficient enough to help me cope with what was happening. Reese’s Peanut Butter cereal, grilled cheese sandwiches, grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, chicken tenders, Pop-Tarts. It was a culinary trip through simple, non-satiating carbs. For all the reasons I shouldn’t have made that choice – for all the reasons I should have doubled down on my healthy habits – it was fun, it was comforting. We’ve since corrected our ways and are very much back to our Pre-Wedding Diet. But it was fun, innocent, escapism. We could all use a little of that these days.
Equality, as an American and as a Christian, is not something I have spent enough time thinking about in my thirty years of life. Plenty would not be surprised to hear that. Throughout American history, plenty of great words have been written: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. For a long time, though, the promises therein were legally precluded from applying to many. Too many. Even as the letter of various laws have changed, the application of justice and equity has been slow and/or incomplete. Many companies and plenty of my peers took to social media to point this out, the efficacy and authenticity of this sort of thing has brought on much of its own debate. During this time I chose to engage in private, productive conversations with friends, family, and peers about their perspectives and how, at the individual level, we can influence change. I also set out on a journey through a familiar source: Reading. I recognized at the beginning of the protests over the murder of George Floyd that there was so much I didn’t know. To remedy this I dove into books to gain context, perspective, and knowledge.
To that end, three books that I read stand out as particularly enlightening. They are at times uncomfortable, but they are powerful. Those are: How To Be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram Kendi, The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein, and White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo. I learned a lot from these sources. I was amazed to learn, just as one example, that black veterans returning from World War II were, as a matter of legally protected policy, denied access to affordable VA home loans. This is the sort of history that plenty of us don’t know and is the sort of context that Drew Brees, as just one example, might have benefitted from knowing. There were countless other nuggets from these books, and plenty of other books are out there.
Knowledge, in these contexts, is so powerful.
Walt, Steve, and Others
After returning the afore mentioned books to the library, I decided to switch gears to something a little more light hearted. First was “Disney’s Land,” a thorough history of Walt Disney’s journey to breathe life into imagination and bring his idea for Disneyland into reality. Today we know The Walt Disney Company as a multi-billion dollar monolith, but Walt was far from flush as he set out to build his park. Walt had plenty of people around him that genuinely believed him to be brilliant and talented, but he very much felt an anxious isolation about his work – something that resonates with me as an “aspiring writer.” Reading about Walt also served to scratch the itch of my deep rooted Disney addiction, something that’s been put on hold during the Pandemic. I’ve since started a tour of American CEO’s, starting with Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. After that I’ll return to Disney history with autobiographies from Michael Eisner and Bob Iger. There’s plenty to learn from successful leaders, regardless of what your own pursuits are.
The More I Read, The More I Write
Time and time again I’ve been told that if I want to write, I have to read. My ravenous consumption of written word over the past two months has served my writers mind and helped me get back to the table. I’m twenty or so hand-written pages into a rough draft of a book that will blend my memoir of an adolescence spent dealing with obesity, the path I took to change that, a social commentary of the environment that made both possible, and tips for those looking to make a transition similar to mine. I’m not an expert on these matters, but I hope that my personal narrative will inspire someone…even just one someone. To that end I am very optimistic and I’m passionate about getting the story out there. Keep your eyes open for details.
In any event folks… Whatever cruel reality the quarantine has cast upon you, it will pass. Eventually we’ll be back to concerts, weddings, and family vacations. Keep your head up. We’ll all be better and stronger on the other side.