While this is not a story directly related to COVID-19 or quarantine, it discusses one of the issues that the shut down has brought up. How important, how necessary, are the pursuits we enjoy so much like sports, like baseball? I give you this story to suggest that baseball, and activities like sports, are more important than we might imagine. Influenced by the dozens of Asimov stories I devoured as a teenager, this is a brief tale to encourage the MLB players and owners to get together to make sure baseball happens in 2020! Civilization may depend on it.
“Long live the Series!” Joe and Aaron toasted, knocking the cans of beer together. Foam flew off the opened tops as liquid spilled over onto their hands.
“Best time of the year,” Joe said, taking his seat in front of the TV.
Both men drank for a moment while the announcers talked pros and cons of the two teams playing in the World Series. They both savored the moment more than the beer. Ritual and mutual affection sweetened the experience. It was an almost sacred moment for them both.
“How many years have we done this?” Aaron asked, finally breaking the silence.
Joe smiled and shook his head. “You know the answer to that.”
“Thirty years,” Aaron answered. “You remember how we started?”
Joe looked over at his friend, confusion written clearly on his face. “What kind of question is that?” he asked. “Of course I know.”
“Don’t get offended” Aaron said. He paused, taking a sip of beer, then looked over at his friend again.
“Do you remember the conversation we had?” he asked.
Joe rolled his eyes, beginning to grow frustrated. “What’s this about?” he asked. “Why are you getting all sentimental with me?”
“Humor me,” Aaron requested.
“Fine,” Joe said. “We were in the common room of Bethel Hall. I think it was sophomore year for both of us. What year was that? 1990? You were studying physics, I was studying history. We were the only two that came down to watch the Series. It was a dorm full of nerds.”
“It was the Honors dorm,” Aaron protested while he laughed.
“I don’t care what dorm it was,” Joe said. “If you didn’t watch the Series, you were a nerd.
“Anyway, we watched that Series and every one after that year. Since then, it’s been a tradition.”
“Yes, but do you remember what we talked about that night?” Aaron asked.
“Oh, that’s what you’re getting at. Yeah, I remember. You said that sports can change the world. I said it couldn’t. We argued about that through game three.”
“That’s right,” Aaron confirmed. “I said sports could change the world, even the course of history. You insisted that it couldn’t.”
“That’s not what I said,” Joe denied. “I said it’s impact was minimal. Don’t get me wrong, I like sports as much as the next guy. But let’s face it, it’s just a game. It has temporary and passing impact on history. It’s a distraction.”
Aaron nodded and the two watched the pregame in silence for a moment. Joe looked over at his friend, waiting for him to explain himself.
“You going to tell me what this is all about?” he finally asked.
Aaron smiled. “What if I told you that I can prove that sports can change history?”
“I would ask for that proof.” Joe said. “Correction. I would ask how you could possibly prove it.”
Aaron reached over and produced a dusty, hardbound book. As Joe took it he examined the cover, grey with wear. The Story of Baseball was engraved on the cover.
“How old is that book?” Aaron asked. “If you had to guess.”
Joe studied the book with a closer eye, feeling the pages, inspecting the illustrations, noting the wear. “Early twentieth century I would say,” Joe answered. “About a hundred years old.”
“You’re right. A hundred year old book on the history of baseball. You want to look at it. Give it a quick glance.”
Joe shook his head but began a quick perusal of the book. He flipped it open to a random spot and read. Then turned a little further and read again before he slammed it shut.
“What is this?” he asked. “It’s all wrong. Is this is some kind of fantasy tale?”
“It’s not,” Aaron answered. “It’s a legitimate history of baseball, written from before I invented time travel.”
The book slammed to the ground. Joe took another swig of his beer and settled back in his chair.
“Alright, enough of the joke,” he said. “Let’s watch the game.”
“I’m serious,” Aaron said, leaning forward. “I found a way to break the barrier of time. I traveled in the past and changed history.”
“You changed when baseball was invented?” Joe asked. “Why would you do something like that? Why waste a trip back in time to change baseball? Why not change something important?”
“I didn’t know what the ramifications might be,” Aaron said in earnest. “I didn’t know if changing something would create another time line or create a paradox in my own. I thought I would start small, but noticeable. And if I was able to settle a little argument that has been ongoing between us, that would be an added bonus.”
“You know I don’t believe a word you say,” Joe stated. “This argument is, as always, academic.”
“Not this time,” Aaron said. “This time, I can prove it.”
“With the book?” Joe asked.
“I don’t know why you have some bogus history of baseball, but I am sure there is some other explanation for it. It has to be a fantasy or something. It mentions places in there that don’t even exist.”
“But they did exist,” Aaron said. “They did. But when I went back in time and changed when baseball was introduced into the world, entire civilizations ceased to exist.”
“Because of baseball?” Joe asked.
Joe took another sip of his beer, his eyes watching the broadcast unfold.
“So, just for the sake of argument,” he began. “What exactly did you change about the history of baseball?”
Aaron smiled and leaned forward. “I went back in time and introduced baseball to the Romans.”
Joe laughed, waving away the suggestion. “That doesn’t change anything,” he said. “Everyone knows the Romans invented baseball.”
“Not in the time I came from originally,” Aaron insisted. “That history I gave you, that one sitting right there, is 100% accurate in the time as it originally stood.”
Joe huffed in disbelief. “Are you saying that you gave the Romans baseball?”
“Yes,” Aaron said. “I went back in time and introduced baseball to the Roman Empire.”
“During the reign of Claudius?” Joe asked.
“Just as you know it,” Aaron told him.
Silence passed between the two men as Joe digested the words. The men drank their beer and watched the pre-game rituals carry on through the TV.
“You know they took to it quite naturally,” Aaron said. “The Romans.”
“Of course they did,” Joe agreed, a bit of sarcasm in his voice. “What’s more Roman than baseball?”
Aaron laughed, though not as heartily as he would if Joe was able to get the joke.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to hearing that.”
“You know I don’t believe a word you say,” Joe said, just to make sure.
“I know,” Aaron told him. “Maybe I will have to show you more.”
“You’re serious,” Joe said, sitting up, irritation creeping into his voice. “You really want me to believe that you introduced baseball to the Romans?”
“And that it changed history?”
“That it did,” Aaron said. “That it did.”
Joe sighed and sat back, shaking his head. “Alright, I guess you can go ahead and show me,” he said.
“Not quite yet,” Aaron said. “Let’s wait until the Series is over. We can’t miss that.”
“Now you’re making sense again,” Joe said, banging his beer into Aaron’s for another toast. “Let’s watch the Series.”
The men turned to the TV as the camera panned over the field, across the insignia of the Eagles of Rome, up past the seats behind home plate to the Imperial Box that overlooked the field. Joe put down his beer and stood, holding up one hand, straight in the air. A confused Aaron watched him for a moment, then did the same.
“To open the playing of our one-thousand seven-hundred and ninetieth edition of the World Series,” the announcer called out. “Let us hail our Imperial Majesty, Nero Drusus Gaius Octavius the Twelfth.”
“Hail Caesar!” the crowd called out.
“Hail Caesar!” repeated Joe.
Aaron looked at his friend, unable to believe what he was seeing. He shrugged his shoulders.
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