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Cash is king

This column recommends against buying Spring Training tickets during a lockout.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox
A baseball stadium with people in it because games are happening.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Like a lot of you, I miss baseball dearly. Winter isn’t the same without the hot stove. Also like a lot of you, I recently contracted the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. Winter isn’t the same with it. Mix all that with the Patriots meeting a definitive end and I found myself bingeing the Netflix show F1: Drive to Survive over the last week. It is very good.

It is probably obvious by the time it took me this long in the column to get to it, but I am not a “racing fan.” In and before high school I watched NASCAR occasionally, but that’s about it. This F1 watching experiment was on a lark, based on reliable hearsay that the series is excellent. The series is excellent, and I plan to watch F1 this season because of it. You should watch it too, if you think you might at all like it, because if you think you might at all like it you will love it and, like me, might find some connections, comforting and otherwise, with the Red Sox.

The first season of the Drive to Survive, which chronicles the annual March-November/December schedule of the F1 race calendar, covered the 2018 season, with the next two seasons (and forthcoming fourth one) following hard upon, year by year, through 20202. That puts the first race of season three squarely in the second week of March of last year, which is where we somewhat uncomfortably find ourselves in the first episode of season 3, as COVID spread across the world.

Spoiler alert: The race eventually gets cancelled, but in the mid-March days before the Australian Grand Prix was officially nixed the entire F1 world descended on Melbourne as if nothing was wrong, only to go through the same steps as the NBA in shutting things down (the NBA shutdown happens when they’re in Australia, and is a character in the story.)

Up until the last minute, though, they’re intent on running the race, and at the normal pre-race press conference with the top drivers, Lewis Hamilton—a historically dominant F1 champion who’s a near-perfect cross of Roger Federer and Tiger Woods—was the only racer or team manager with enough power or good sense to ask why they were all ignoring the virus in the room and continuing with a mass gathering in what was clearly a pandemic.

He was then asked why he though that F1 would do such a thing.

“Cash is king,” he said, and the slogan lends itself to the Drive to Survive episode about all this.

Which brings us to baseball. Our lockout is nearing its third month, and whether it ends Monday or in March or in May, it will eventually end, and there will be baseball. “Cash is king” works both ways: No baseball means no money, whereas no baseball for a little bit means just a little bit of money up front. Everyone wants the games to happen eventually. That’s why we’re all here.

That said, the lockout can and often does feel unnecessary and self-defeating, but I’m not here to complain about that. I’m here to laugh at the audacity of the Red Sox, and basically every other team, for selling tickets to spring training and regular season games as if nothing is amiss, not unlike Lewis Hamilton wondering if the world around him hadn’t gone completely mad in Melbourne.

I get the emails from the team in my inbox, and I can’t believe it. Seats at JetBlue go on sale one day, Opening Day another. Act now! Yes, you get your money back if the games are canceled, but not the money for your plane tickets, hotel rooms, etc. Opening Day? Maybe it happens as scheduled and maybe it doesn’t, so I guess I understand it, but spring training? It seems potentially crazy and misleading to sell the seats now, even with a guaranteed refund baked in. Just saying.

Ultimately I understand it, because and the leagues are here to make money, especially because of what ended up happening in 2020 in the days leading up to Melbourne and beyond. Rich people largely don’t make money by accident. They know what they’re doing. The Red Sox know what they are doing. So, hopefully, does anyone buying the tickets. But if you don’t, and you want my advice, here it is: Don’t!