From a summer sports perspective, about the only sliver of virtue accruing from the coronavirus shutdown is that Seattle would be spared the onslaught of Canadian fans pouring in for the annual visit of the Toronto Blue Jays. Besides cheering for the national team, they had a secondary goal of rendering inert all those stereotypes of Canadians being polite, courteous and deferential.
The ballpark typically brims with Canucks not only mocking the Mariners (tough chore there) but proving they can be as belligerent as Americans. It was not quite like Hockey Night in Canada, but after being out-numbered, out-drunk and out-shouted for three hours, most Mariners fans would prefer to have been high-sticked.
As irony would have it, the Blue Jays series here would have been this weekend, July 24-26. Instead, after a public health convulsion that shredded sports calendars globally, neither the Blue Jays nor the Mariners will be around.
I’m already missing the ritual, starting with getting whipped at the national anthems.
We’ve known for a while the Blue Jays weren’t coming, MLB having decided if there were to be a season at all — back in the heady days of April when President Trump was spearheading health-care innovations such as injections of bleach and disinfectant — that any shortened season would include no cross-country travel.
We didn’t know until recently the regular season would be merely 60 games, and that the Mariners would begin with seven games on the road, the first four in Houston. As you may have read, Houston is among the nation’s fastest-growing covid-19 hot spots, or as it is known in Tolkien-infused public-health circles, Mordor.
Then Saturday, we learned that Canada is not satisfied merely having its way slapping around Seattle. The federal government is so disgusted with its cooties-covered neighbor to south that it has banned the Blue Jays and all MLB opponents from playing in Toronto, less than a week before the season starts.
The Great White North slashes the Once-Great South.
“Canada has been able to flatten the curve in large part due to the sacrifices Canadians have made,” said Marco Mendocino, Minister of Immigration, in a statement. “We understand professional sports are important to the economy and to Canadians. At the same time, our government will continue to take decisions at the border on the basis of advice of our health experts in order to protect the health and safety of all Canadians.”
Nothing says third-world, tinfoil-hat dictatorship like being booted out of Canada because of poor hygiene. MLB has enough problems firing up this bubble-less contraption without having to sputter, “But . . . but it’s not our fault,” to a square-jawed Mountie in a mask.
According to the Toronto Star, the club, which had been training at Rogers Centre the same way the Mariners were at T-ball Park, presented a 176-page return-to-play proposal to the city, county and federal government. It included a modified quarantine at the ballpark and the adjacent hotel, hoping to get an exemption from the 14-day quarantine that applies to the general public when crossing into Canada.
But the feds took one look at ne’er do-wells, outlaws and privateers the Jays proposed to bring across the border to play ball with them and said nope.
Some Americans may take offense being at being repudiated by the little brothers we always fondly thought would make a fine 51st state. But it sounds as if Canadians would prefer a hard winter in the den of a mama grizzly than risk national infection prior to building a wall.
Hard to argue with the logic.
ESPN’s Buster Olney offered up the national shame in a tweet:
Some responses to the Canada COVID numbers are along these lines: The U.S. has more cases because its a bigger country.
To draw out the math:
The U.S. population is 9 times greater than Canada’s.
The U.S. current rate of daily new cases is 233 times greater than Canada’s.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 19, 2020
The Jays are considering two “home field” options, both necessarily in the U.S. : Playing at their AAA affiliate in Buffalo, a two-hour drive, or at their spring-training facility in Dunedin, FL. Since Florida is run by a Trump sycophant governor, who may decide to encourage covid-19 parties in order get more sales tax from beer and liquor sales, the safer choice would be Buffalo, which would celebrate a two-month rental of an MLB team by going three-deep in masks.
The explosion of confirmed cases has taken a far more grave toll on America than the temporary dislocation of one MLB team. But it is another cultural marker of swift national disintegration, owing to our hire as the top crisis manager a crooked businessman who has escaped many of his previous failings via bankruptcy.
And we thought MLB had a management problem.