Some ideas to keep your distance
As Americans collectively crest the apex of our coronaviral Matterhorn — and what a ride it’s been so far — restlessness persists amongst fans now clamoring to get their sports back.
Owners and team executives are scrambling for ways to jumpstart new or conclude in-progress seasons.
Of paramount concern is the radical change to the physical interaction between gladiators since previous expressions of masculine affection such as fist bumps, high fives and butt slaps are now verboten.
By combining cutting-edge technology with good old-fashioned rules tampering, I resolve this dilemma by proposing several thought-provoking measures to facilitate the immediate return of two sports presently stuck in holding patterns.
Here’s what I have so far:
Social distancing becomes the order of the day in baseball dugouts where regulars are now spaced out accordingly via pre-arranged seating determined by that day’s batting order.
This would, of course, strain the remaining space available, forcing utility players to station themselves along the field’s perimeter where they would be tasked with retrieving the occasional foul ball.
Prior to the first pitch, each manager would venture onto their respective on-deck circle, fold their lineup card into the shape of a paper airplane then hurl it towards the umpires milling around home plate.
The boys in blue could be an added source of entertainment by demonstrating their own athleticism (or lack thereof) by attempting to catch the guided projectiles mid-flight.
Catchers would crouch a few feet further back than usual from batters, their tools of ignorance now a valuable means of protection as they essentially serve as human backstops for pitchers prone to keeping the ball “down in the zone.”
Home-plate umpires are replaced by a drone hovering just above and behind the catcher’s head, which continually calculates entry angles and pitch locations to determine balls and strikes.
Since runners could not be held on base, Abner Doubleday-era rules would be adopted whereas any runner hit by a ball thrown at them by an opponent while roaming the base paths would automatically be out.
Mound visits remain permissible. However, any player(s) or coach approaching the center of the diamond must remain on the grass while offering encouragement to pitchers restricted from taking their foot off the rubber.
To alleviate opponent fears of the potential spread of COVID-19, stadium scoreboards would display the hitter’s current body temperature and antibody levels along with the usual batting averages and home run totals.
Contact tracing will enable managers to secretly keep tabs on where their players were the night before.
Hockey could also return, but cross checking would be eliminated, thus transforming the game into a much higher scoring, multi-player skate around.
To maintain proper distancing those players participating in face-offs would employ special “extend-o-sticks” that would elongate to a full two feet similar to a golf ball retriever then retract with the press of a button.
To deter loitering near the goal crease, skaters would be fitted with electric-shock collars to discourage such activity in a manner similar to how suburbanites keep their overzealous canines from straying beyond property lines via an invisible fence.
Should a referee for any reason assess a penalty (doubtful) the offender would be responsible for disinfecting the penalty box prior to returning to the ice, thereby extending the opponent’s power play by a few seconds.
Contz was a starting offensive tackle on Penn State’s first national championship team in 1982 and played six NFL seasons. He published a book in 2017, “When the Lions Roared: Joe Paterno and One of College Football’s Greatest Teams.” He resides in Pittsburgh and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.