Like many other Americans, I've stopped reading the sports pages. In truth the iconic Connecticut newspaper no longer prints one, since there are practically no sports on which to report. But when I do see sports news on TV, it usually involves plans to start or restart seasons:
We will have baseball.
We will award a Stanley Cup.
We will crown an NBA champ.
College football practices will begin.
The NFL will..., the U.S. Open will..., the Kentucky Derby will..., etc., ad nauseam, ad infinitum.
I'm afraid they won't.
Once again history, unfortunately, cannot be ignored, and even if we don't want to, we have to look to the past.
This current pandemic has been compared to the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918, and certainly there are similarities; but a much more apt comparison is to the Great Depression. It's a more painful comparison too: the Spanish flu was gone in two years; the Depression lasted twelve, beginning of course after the Stock Market crash in October 1929 and reaching its lowest point four years later. Granted an economic collapse and a pandemic are not the same, but an economic collapse that results from a pandemic paves the way for comparisons, and makes Trump's "wish" to have everyone in Church last Easter Sunday—one month into the crisis—seem even more daft. But it wasn't unprecedented.
During the Great Depression President Herbert Hoover insisted that the crisis would run its course, this despite breadlines, soup kitchens and homeless people everywhere. Then in 1930 severe droughts drove farmers to the cities where no jobs were available. Banking panic began that same year, and by 1933 thousands of banks had shut their doors for good. Hoover thought propping up the remaining banks was preferable to providing money for the impoverished and starving, believing the banks would reopen and hire back people while making loans so that businesses could recover. They didn't.
The election of FDR put the country back on track, but it was far from a recovery. Government jobs programs and Social Security helped, but a recession 1937 (eight years after the crash) proved a major setback in the recovery. Only the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor restored America to full production—a wartime economy. The cost? In World War II 405,000 Americans lost their lives. Oddly enough the Great Depression had little effect on death rates, but a debilitating effect on the quality of life...for over a decade.
When I hear experts talking about opening schools in the fall, movie theaters at full capacity by summer's end, and winter vacations in the Caribbean, I consider the Great Depression. Twelve years of slow recovery, fits and starts, successes and failures. Two presidents made their reputations during that twelve-year span. One of them, Hoover, the so-called businessman has been relegated to the scrap heap, not because he caused the Depression, but because his attempts to end it failed. To his credit, he did not allow his country to fall under totalitarian rule as did some European nations. We did not turn to communism or fascism, and for that we owe him. But his successor FDR has been exalted to near savior-like status for his assurance that we had nothing to fear but fear itself and his calm leadership in the face of frightened citizens.
For many of us Joe Biden is the answer to this new crisis, and he may very well be. But it will not disappear with his ascendency to the office of president. Treatments for the virus are coming, and maybe in a year a vaccine, but if we're going to compare this pandemic with other cataclysmic events, we should probably be ready for the bad news that comes with it. A return to normality may take years—may take a decade. We will need good steady leadership throughout, and a nation who can put aside its divisiveness and work toward some greater good—some greater goal—something more profound than the insistence that we will have baseball.