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‘Baseball is a microcosm for this time,’ showcasing creativity through challenges

Just days after the delayed start of the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season, a surge of positive COVID-19 diagnoses among players threatens to disrupt the season.

Northwestern University experts are available to comment on what the disruption means for American culture and the necessary steps teams must take to stem the spread of the virus among players.

Interview the experts on disruption to the MLB baseball season

Paul Earle

Paul Earle

Brand and innovation professional and an adjunct lecturer of innovation and entrepreneurship at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management

“Baseball is a microcosm for this time of great challenge and also great industriousness. MLB as an organization and all teams should receive a standing ovation for being so brave and creative in finding a way to even try to play this season. The recent outbreak within the Marlins organization shows that this virus is tougher than a 100 miles-per-hour fastball. As a game, baseball requires a constant series of adjustments, and we’ll have to see how the league handles this one.

“Brands are all about creating emotional connections between products and people. As fans, we all felt great warmth and optimism when we saw our favorite teams take the field, even in an empty stadium. What a boost. If MLB is not able to complete the season, however, this hope will be flipped to despair. People often don’t miss something until it is gone. The absence of pro sports, and the enthusiasm for their return, demonstrate this.

“Brands, in many ways, have many attributes of people. We are seeing that sports brands are composites of the people who play the game and make the decisions in the front office. There are so many human stories – people creatively finding a way forward, dealing with personal adversity, carrying on in the face of risk.”

Irv Rein

Irv Rein

Member of the MLB's commission on the future of baseball in the 21st century and professor of communication studies at Northwestern's School of Communication

"Baseball has always embraced the title of 'America's pastime.' The sad irony is that baseball has never been more desired than right now, when it cannot disconnect from the pandemic. At best, baseball will find itself stopping and starting this season, depending on the health of the clubs and the willingness of the players."

Benjamin Singer

Assistant professor in pulmonary and critical care at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine

“The recent outbreak among Miami Marlins players and staff highlights the incredible infectivity of the virus. If given the opportunity, COVID-19 easily spreads from just a single case to many. This is among the numerous reasons for ongoing social distancing, universal masking, travel restrictions and contact tracing. Baseball has shown just how challenging it can be to keep COVID-19 out of a group that travels and is in contact with people along the way. There are lessons to be learned here about the difficulties of keeping COVID-19 contained even in a well-resourced organization like MLB.”