If this (first?) summer of Covid-19 has revealed anything about the current version of civilization, it’s the profound exhaustion of a culture reduced to going through the motions of its once-vital activities. A lot of things that we hope will come back are probably gone forever in the form we knew them, though they will eventually return in another configuration, reduced in scale, but perhaps finer in quality.
I miss baseball horribly, and it is a sad, half-assed attempt to present a rump season with no live bodies in the seats only amplifies the loss. But then, I haven’t gone to a stadium in twenty years, and I certainly won’t pay a hundred bucks or more to sit in Fenway Park. I used to go to night games there all the time when I was a starving bohemian writing for the Boston hippie newspapers back in 1972. You could get a decent field-level seat behind first base for five bucks. When I was a kid in Manhattan in 1960, a bleacher seat in the old Yankee Stadium was a quarter (plus 30 cents round-trip on the IRT subway).
They weren’t writing $100-million-plus player contracts until fairly recently, either, and of course that’s been a symptom of pro sports’ slide into fatal decadence. If baseball does try to stage a full season in 2021 or 2022, they will not be selling many hundred-dollar seats to an economically demolished middle-class. The teams will be functionally bankrupt by then and if they survive restructuring, there won’t be many million-dollar players. Maybe none. Carl Furillo, the veteran right-fielder for the 1955 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers, used to work construction in the off-season. He was on the crew that built New York’s Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Imagine Mike Trout hanging sheet-rock (if sheet-rock even exists as a product a few years from now).
I can imagine baseball reorganizing into two separate East and West leagues for a while, to reduce costly airplane travel, but even that might not last very long. If pro sports survives the political turmoil ahead, it will come out the other side as a strictly local and regional thing — and that will be the theme for all the things we like to do and must do. The idiocy of pro football will not survive at all. Its farm system (college sports) will be long gone.
Higher education committed suicide with its dual racketeering model. First was the college loan racket, in which schools with the federal government to jam too many “customers” through the pipeline who didn’t belong there, and who buried themselves under a lifetime debt obligation they could never escape. The second was the intellectual racket of creating sham fields of study that contaminated all the other “humanities” with poisonous bullshit theory, and eventually even invaded the STEM disciplines. Covid-19 screwed the pooch on all that, scotching the four-year party-hearty in-residence part of the deal. For now, who needs an online class in ($2000-a-credit) when you can just click on Porn-hub for free? Hundreds of colleges and universities will be going out of business in the years ahead.
The outlook for the big centralized high schools is also pretty dark. The teachers’ unions’ insatiable needs are only part of the picture. Consolidating many smaller schools to save on administrative costs seemed like a good idea at the time. But we ended up with thousands of gigantic schools that looked like insecticide factories and felt like minimum security prisons. They all depend on the costly yellow bus fleets to collect the kids from far and wide. The whole scheme ended up as an elaborate day-care operation that actually retarded the development of young people into functional, autonomous adults.
Covid-19 and the economic collapse it triggered will put an end to all that. How will the school districts cope with an epic loss of tax revenue from all the homeowners defaulting on their mortgages? They won’t. Schooling will have to reorganize, and probably at a very grassroots level, with home-schools evolving into neighbor-pods of tiny schools, and only among parents who have the literacy and numeracy to pull it off. We’ll be lucky if, years from now, we’ll see something like local academies spring up that can handle a few hundred students. I’d also warn you about assuming that the Internet is a permanent installation of the human condition. It depends utterly on a pretty fragile electric grid. We do, after all, have libraries, and maybe they can be persuaded to stop trying to get rid of all their books.
These Covid months have prompted Americans to pass the idle hours of joblessness and anomie with Hollywood’s canned entertainments. Could that all be over, too? The theaters were already sucking wind before the virus landed — relying on an ever more brain-dead repetition of comic book movies — while the quality product moved to Cable TV. Now that’s saturated, with the newer product fermenting into garbage. But who is going to keep paying for all that with unemployment at 30 percent, and moving higher?
Are you already bored out of your skull with reruns of the old classics? People truly need narrative art forms to make sense of reality, but they have to be tuned to the times we live in. My bet would be on the eventual return of live theater on local stages for original stories keyed to the new post-collapse reality — which will not be understood via or . Broadway is finished, with its endless reiterations of old hits, and also, of course, because New York City itself is only beginning a long journey down the drain before it can be reorganized into a functioning entrepôt. I’ve got half a mind to invest in an outfit that can put on puppet shows in my little flyover town.
As you can surely tell by now, the trend is local and smaller for all of these things. That may even be true for national elections and the venerable thing called the United States of America. The Democratic Party was initially only striving for mere suicide, but lately it looks like they want to destroy the country altogether — and they may succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Fifty years from now, several separate American nations may be sending their own regional baseball league champions to some kind of World Series, if we’re not still at war with each other.