07302020 Column

COLUMN: Back on the Couch Again

The last four months have been a long, strange odyssey for our family, and for so many others in America. Whenever anyone asks how my wife and I are doing, we always say something along the lines of, “Can’t complain.”

We’re both still employed and our family is healthy–that puts us ahead of millions of American families, including some close friends of ours. The truth is, our house has been a little bit of a wreck. We’re all anxious, we’re all grieving canceled plans (our son’s birthday party, a family trip to Japan), and we’re all wishing things could “go back to normal,” if only for one weekend.

We keep those concerns in perspective–our problems are mental, not material. That doesn’t mean they’re not real problems, of course. This week, we finally got that one cold glass of water we’ve been craving in the middle of the psychological desert, the one deep breath of normalcy before we plunged our heads back underwater into the strange reality we’re all sharing.

That break came in the form of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who began their bizarre, truncated season last week. The season started several months late, will be light 100+ games from a normal campaign, and will be played in empty stadiums that are filled with the roar of a fake crowd. The fact that the four games my family and I watched from Thursday through Sunday felt like a return to normalcy is a sign of how truly unusual our collective existence is.

Our son, Vincent, is seven years old and a burgeoning diehard baseball fan. He was literally counting down the days until he got to see Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts on TV, just as he’s now begun a countdown until the Lakers begin playing (Thursday at 6 p.m., by the way). 

Yes, the games were weird. The crowd noise took some getting used to, as did the cutouts in the stands. We spent all four games scanning the background for a cutout of family friend and Dodgers diehard Bruce Ford, who passed away late last year–his kids bought a cutout to make sure he’d be represented for this historic season. 

But despite how weird the sights were compared to a “regular” broadcast, there’s no denying the comfort of being able to sprawl out on the couch and enjoy a baseball game. There was no need to scroll through six pages of Netflix or Disney Plus to find something we hadn’t seen before. We just had to sit down and turn on the TV and we knew what we were doing for the next three hours.

The most valuable part of the experience, aside from seeing how good the Dodgers look, was not having to think for a little bit. I stopped worrying about how to get the amount of exercise my doctor recommends without access to a gym or a basketball court. My wife stopped worrying about how she’s going to teach high school English through a computer. Our kids stopped worrying about their parents constantly yelling at them to pick up after themselves.

For a few hours, we got to eat snacks, sit in front of the television, laugh together, and unload the daily problems we’re struggling with–the same way we used to, back when things were normal.


Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.