I’ve been strung out and ornery for the past eighteen months. It started with pandemic and a shutdown of the economy, and the shuttering of the courts. All at once, a thriving law practice and all the controversy a contrarian could want came to a grinding standstill.
Then came Black Lives Matter and the sense that a slumbering nation was being sold a bill of damaged goods. George Floyd wasn’t killed because he was black. Yet you’d think his death marked the reimposition of chattel slavery.
The courts are struggling to open now. There’s resolute talk of re-opening the courts, but jurors are reluctant to return for jury service. Without juries, the practice of law, at least criminal law, is impossible: it takes the threat of trial to bring both the state and a defendant to the bargaining table. And when agreements can’t be struck, trial resolves cases – one way or the other.
I enjoy trying cases. I always have. As I write this, I still don’t know whether I will try a case in 2021. I’ve gone from trying multiple cases per year to sitting on the sidelines. I didn't sign up for retirement.
Oh, I’ve enjoyed the break. Don’t get me wrong. I had no idea I was working so hard until, well, the courts closed and I stopped working so hard. I know I’ll be back at it when courts resume their vital work. I’m testy, and more than a little irritated about having my professional life, and the lives of my clients, placed on hold.
Damn the pandemic.
And damn the activists who sought to transform a public health crisis into opportunity.
Last year, I was unable even to turn on a baseball of football game – my two guilty pleasures – for fear I’d be preached to about social justice, or some such. I almost never turn the television on any longer. Never mind the news, the shows and the commentary – even the ads are now political. It’s not enough to buy shaving cream; you need to buy it from just the right folks in just the right way.
So it was with some misgivings that I turned on the television to try watching a baseball game today. Truth is I was exhausted after several busy months. The courts may not be open, but I’ve been in California and then Texas attending to cases. And new civil cases my office has filed require endless digital manipulation. I needed a break. So I turned on the New York Yankees versus the Oakland Athletics. Yes, I root for the Yankees when I cannot watch the Chicago Cubs.
I was surprised to see so few folks in the stands. It’s a beautiful day, why not head out to the ballpark? And while the Yankees are struggling, at least by my lights – I never forgive them for occupying anything other than first place – they are still the Yankees.
Things looked grim once the A’s took a 4-0 lead. I was tempted to turn the game off. But then I noticed something refreshing. The announcers called the game. They weren’t talking about COVID-19, and, not once did I hear anything about “social justice.” I felt as though I had traveled back to a saner moment in time, a time in which a game was just a game.
I left the television on as I did chores around the house. And then the magic set in. It was a lazy summer afternoon. The Yankees clawed their way back into the game, one hit, one batter, at a time. Suddenly, the game was tied. Electricity was in the air. I returned to watch as the Yankees went on to win.
I was eight years old again rooting for the Chicago Cubs from our tiny apartment near Wrigley Field. I was in middle school rooting for the Detroit Tigers, sitting in the stands of Tiger Stadium screaming as though the fate of the world turned on the game. When the last out was called, I stood and cheered to an empty house. But my heart was full.
For the first time in 18-months I felt innocent again. Innocent, and grateful, especially to the announcers who let their love of the game control the narrative.
We are more than fear and what divides.
I gained a deeper appreciation today of why baseball is called the national pastime.
I suspect I would have felt the same even had the Yankees lost, but I don’t know. Today I won life’s lottery.