Wild Card Round - Miami Marlins v Chicago Cubs - Game One
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With Cubs set to become the first city team to allow fans since the COVID shutdown, the question remains: Is it safe?

If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.

A dangerous virus is raging, and we should stay home and avoid travel. Or not. It all depends on whom you listen to — and, of course, whom you believe.

What does this have to do with Opening Day on Thursday at Wrigley Field for our beloved Cubs?

Just about everything.

We are so sick of quarantining and missing out on the simple joys of being alive in a free country that the start of baseball — and nothing says ‘‘Play ball!’’ like a spring day game at the Friendly Confines — could bring us pure exhilaration.

And maybe it will. Let’s hope it does.

The point is that fans are going to be in the stands as the Cubs take on the Pirates at 1:20 p.m. Hey, hey!

Yes, attendance will be limited to 20% of capacity, roughly 8,000 people. But there have been no fans at any Chicago games — baseball, basketball, football, hockey — since the game between the Sharks and Blackhawks at the United Center on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 — more than a year ago.

So this is happiness, albeit muted.

Imagine real people cheering again, not canned P.A. stuff. Real fans hollering, ‘‘Get a cane, ump!’’ Real kids bickering with their siblings over peanuts.

That is, of course, if the voices can be heard through masks.

And masks will be required at all times. If you don’t have a mask, field staff will provide you with one. If you won’t wear the one provided, you’ll be asked to leave. If you won’t leave . . . well, this ain’t Texas, pardner.

Indeed, as monumental as this soft opening at Wrigley is, down in Arlington, Texas, the Rangers are allowing a full house of 40,518 fans for Opening Day at Globe Life Field. That makes the Rangers the first pro team in North America to allow a capacity crowd at its home field or arena since the COVID-19 shutdown last March.

Yep, that virus is scared of tough guys in 10-gallon hats. Back on

March 2, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott fully opened the state, the first governor in the nation to do so. Freedom!

Which is why I brought up confusion at the start.

If Texans can go maskless, jam restaurants, dance in crowds, party at bars, carry six-shooters and blast rattlesnakes at will, well, are they smarter than the rest of us or idiotic?

Don’t answer out loud.

It’s a funny thing for Texas folks to ponder, isn’t it, when the default situation might mean the intensive-care unit or worse.

So what the Cubs are doing — and the White Sox when they open Guaranteed Rate Field to 8,000 fans for their home opener April 8 — is probably pretty darn safe, all things considered.

Lots of restrictions apply, such as pod seating, cashless food areas, the aforementioned mask mandate, etc. But just to see the green grass and ancient center-field scoreboard at Wrigley — with the pennants of every National League team blowing in the breeze — will be as soothing as a lullaby. The ridiculous hand-moved white numbers on that huge green box will be part of a happy dream.

And good ol’ Kyle Hendricks, the dependable, soft-throwing professor — whose best-in-the-majors 2.13 ERA in 2016 helped the Cubs win that life-altering World Series — will be on the mound. It’ll be like watching your friendly uncle fish a favorite hole, looking for nibbles. Wonderful.

Yet there’s a variant out there. People are getting vaccinated, but not enough. Nothing truly will be safe until there is herd immunity for 330 million Americans. And even then . . .

The best guess is that COVID likely spread from bats to pigs, then to us. According to one scientific estimate, there are more than 820,000 viruses in the animal world that have similar potential to jump to humans. Yowee!

‘‘Right now, I’m scared,’’ Centers for Disease Control director Rochelle Walensky said Monday, adding that she feels a sense of ‘‘impending doom.’’

You see, there appears to be a COVID spike going on again.

On March 8, Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted: ‘‘Folks, we’ve significantly slowed the spread of COVID. . . . And now, we can begin to safely welcome fans back to our baseball stands on opening day.’’

Can we? Talk about confusion.

Well, they’re coming, no matter what.

So let’s call that a good thing. And then let’s shout — all together and through our mandatory masks — ‘‘Go, Cubs, go!’’


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