March Madness

“March Madness,” indeed. This is the one we didn’t see coming. SARS and Ebola didn’t have this impact. Neither did storm-porn, Hurricane spaghetti models. Neither did the Great Recession. Nor 9/11. Nor the 2016 election.

It’s because–tension and fear notwithstanding–we still had diversions and escapes. That’s been the model. A night–however sobering the context–out. A movie, a play, a concert, a museum, a game, a festival, an Airfest, a Grand Prix, a river greening, a happy hour. We need our diversions and escapes. Physically and psychologically. Self isolation, however prudent, can be a depressant if you let it.

Ironically, the last movie-theater experience of my wife, Laraine, and I was the CineBistro showing of “The Invisible Man.” Too bad it wasn’t “The Invisible Movie.” Alas, a manipulative movie about an invisible, stalking menace was not an ideal choice, even though it was discount Tuesday with enough accumulated points to split a veggie burger.

When I think of the WHO, I want it to be about “Pinball Wizard” not “COVID-19.”

I miss being able to escape into the Lightning’s countdown to the playoffs, a new season of promise for the Rays and the upsets and buzzer-beaters that always define the NCAA’s “March Madness.” I miss a viable sports section to counteract apocalyptic updates.

An old SCOTUS Chief Justice Earl Warren quote now resonates more than ever. “I always turn to the sports pages first,” said Warren, “which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

There’s always binge watching–such as “The Windsors” or “Chernobyl” or “Hillary”–but eventually the bar gets lowered for those who used to wonder what house arrest was like. But going out amid renegades means invoking the “six-foot rule.” I preferred its application to the Mons Venus. And not everybody who’s a fan of ESPN Classic is a follower of “Project Runway” or “Top Chef.” At-home compromise can be an issue.

But kicking back with a “quarantini” can help. As does a new Amazoned book or an old backgammon board. And whoever would have thought a presidential debate would qualify as a diversion? But we’re definitely passing on watching the 9-year old Warner Bros. movie “Contagion,” now one of the most popular rentals for video streaming services in 2020. I’d rather watch Matt Damon in “Ford vs. Ferrari,” which we did. Good flick. 

So, we’ve become avatars of social distancing and are self isolating, and by so doing–taking one for the team. With apologies to John F. Kennedy and Ted Sorensen: “Ask not what staying home on the couch can do for you, but what staying home on the couch can do for your country.”  

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