Justin Turner finally got his World Series title and Major League Baseball got its postseason TV riches, so to hell with everybody else.
That’s how we’re doing it, right? Personal satisfaction and happiness over the collective good, science and common sense be damned.
The appalling flouting of COVID-19 protocols at the World Series on Tuesday night might as well be a microcosm of the United States, bringing into sharp focus why this country has lost almost 230,000 of its mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents and friends in the past seven months.
Turner was pulled from Game 6 in the eighth inning and put in isolation following confirmation that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Yet as the Dodgers celebrated their first championship since 1988, Turner was back on the field, often maskless, not social distancing.
When the Dodgers took their team photo, Turner was front and center, mask pulled down beneath his chin while sitting next to manager Dave Roberts, a cancer survivor.
“He’s part of the team,” Mookie Betts said. “Forget all that. He’s part of the team. We’re not excluding him.”
As if the coronavirus cares.
The Dodgers and MLB shared responsibility. None of the Dodgers held Turner accountable in the moment, and president Andrew Friedman even excused his behavior. MLB didn’t acknowledge Turner’s positive test until well after the game ended. Even then, commissioner Rob Manfred made only an offhand reference before the presentation of the MVP award.
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The league then proceeded to ignore almost all requests for more information – and not until mid-afternoon Wednesday did
Manfred tell USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale that MLB planned to issue a strong statement condemning Turner’s selfishness.
Maybe it’s asking too much, but when you’ve had 15-plus hours to craft a statement, I expect it to say more than, “While a desire to celebrate is understandable, Turner’s decision to leave isolation and enter the field was wrong and put everyone he came in contact with at risk.”
MLB took no responsibility for how Turner got out of isolation, saying he “emphatically refused” requests to leave the field doesn’t cut it. It gave no explanation for why the game wasn’t stopped when Turner was removed. No apologies for the awful message all this sent to the rest of the country.
It was as if once Dodgers reliever Julio Urias got the final out, MLB threw up its hands and said, “Screw it. COVID-19 isn’t our problem anymore!”
Not that this should be a surprise.
Asked to put the well-being of our medical professionals and vulnerable neighbors ahead of our own wants, to trust science over conspiracy theories and bald-faced lies, we as a country have revealed ourselves to be a nation of many selfish and arrogant people.
We have prioritized the return of sports over schools and small businesses. We have made exceptions to protocols when it suited us and ignored advice when it wasn’t convenient. We have refused to believe COVID was as bad as it is, and instead pretended it would just magically go away.
The results have been wholly predictable.
The Wisconsin Legislature has been completely derelict in its responsibilities, causing the entire state to now need a hazmat suit. Given that environment, it was not wise for the University of Wisconsin to resume football. It was even less wise for theBadgers to host Illinois in a game last Friday night, even without spectators.
But this is ‘Murica! We can’t let the virus control us!
On Wednesday, Wisconsin announced it was shutting down its football program for at least seven days after 12 people, including coach Paul Chryst and two quarterbacks, had tested positive for COVID-19. Wisconsin also called off Saturday’s game against Nebraska, the 33rd game to be canceled or postponed because of COVID-19 since the season began.
This comes two weeks after Florida coach Dan Mullen lobbied for fans to “pack the Swamp” for the upcoming game against LSU, the state’s governor having thrown open the state despite being one of the country’s worst hot spots.
Three days later, the Gators paused their season because of an outbreak that would eventually infect more than two dozen people, Mullen included.
“I certainly apologize if I offended people,” Mullen said.
And therein lies the problem.
The recklessness and indifference exhibited by our sports and many sports fans isn’t a matter of offending anyone’s sensibilities or having conflicting opinions. It’s about ignoring the very real crisis our country is in, and conflating our response to COVID-19 as some referendum on American exceptionalism.
While it’s true most COVID cases aren’t severe, it remains a highly contagious disease for which there is no vaccine, no cure and very few effective treatments. It still kills at too high of a rate, and the terrifying stories of “long haulers” is a reminder that we have no idea what the long-term effects in mild cases will be.
Our best defenses are wearing masks, washing hands and socially distancing. Yet there remains a large number of Americans who refuse to do it, demonize those who do or excuse irresponsible behavior.
There was no reason for Justin Turner to participate in the post-game celebration Tuesday night. There was no reason for the Dodgers to enable Turner’s behavior. But it’s a reflection of where we are as a country, and it shows just how broken we’ve become.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.