More on Justin Turner’s maskless World Series celebration, which has nothing directly to do with stadiums but bear with me

It’s a bad day to be Justin Turner. The Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman, who received a positive coronavirus test result during Tuesday’s Game 6 of the World Series, was pulled from the game, then returned to the field to take part in postgame celebrations after the Dodgers won the championship, has been savaged across the sports world, getting called “selfish” by Yahoo! Sports, “galling” by USA Today, and I’m not even going to check Twitter. Even Dodgers president Andrew Friedman, who semi-defended Turner’s presence on the field by saying that he technically became a free agent as soon as the game ended and “I don’t think there was anyone that was going to stop him,” acknowledged that it was “not good optics” to have him sitting for a photo, maskless, next to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, a cancer survivor.

And then on the other hand there was Defector’s Albert Burneko, who beneath the superficially contrarian headline “It’s Not Justing Turner’s Fault” made the point that focusing the blame on individual behavior during an institutional crisis is completely the wrong way to go about things:

The bleak lesson of 2020—really, the bleak lesson of so much of the history of this society, but one the year 2020 seems hell-bent on teaching—is about the futility of individual responses amid institutional failure. This is how the real bad actors, the ones with the power to actually make significant changes, want things: with responsibility for containing the pandemic, or arresting climate change, or addressing systemic inequality and social injustice, litigated in society as matters of scattered individual choice. If baseball failed to contain the pandemic, well then it was because no individual person made the individual choice to thwart Justin Turner’s deeply human desire to celebrate the happiest moment of his life with the teammates who’d shared the journey with him, and not because Major League Baseball had a duty to provide and adhere to clearer and firmer protocols from the beginning. If a campaign rally doubles as a superspreader event, well, heck, we passed out masks, but it’s not like the literal president of the United States can just insist people wear them at an affair he’s hosting. If your preferred party loses an election, it’s because individuals selfishly withheld their vote, not because the party had, and fell short of, any responsibility to reach those people and earn their support. If the natural world swelters to death, well then it’s because not enough people bought electric cars or metal straws, not because neoliberal governments deferred to the corporate world for meaningful changes it wouldn’t make until forced by market imperatives, if then, if ever.

As several people raised down in the Defector comments, Justin Turner’s maskless run onto the field was a lot like college students’ maskless partying in the wake of reopening campuses — yes, it’s incredibly dumb, but when under the influence of alcohol/hormones/having just won the World Series, you kind of have to expect some people to do incredibly dumb things. Which is why we have rules against doing dumb things, and league officials and college administrators and U.S. presidents who are supposed to enforce those rules. It’s not Andrew Friedman’s job, in other words, to be as confused as Nigel.

And even as MLB has been frantically issuing statements that, hey, they told Turner to stay off the field and he wouldn’t listen, there are frankly more concerning things about the league’s actions here than how many security guards they assigned to the Covid isolation room. (Presumably if a fan had tried to run onto the field they would have done more than just ask them nicely to stop, right? But I digress.) Even if Turner had sat placidly and watched the celebration on TV, he’d been in close proximity to the rest of his team, often indoors in the clubhouse, for weeks prior to this, which according to both CDC and MLB rules meant everyone else on the team should be immediately quarantined. USA Today initially reported that “the team will have multiple rounds of testing before leaving Texas.” Instead, this happened:

Yes, indeed, Some Guy Named G, you’re not likely to start testing positive until at least four days after you yourself are infected, but you can be infectious that whole time. So Mookie Betts testing negative yesterday is no guarantee that Mookie Betts isn’t silently transmitting coronavirus to everyone else on that team plane, or wherever else he goes back in Los Angeles once he gets off it. Justin Turner risking infecting his teammates for the sake of a photo op with the championship trophy was reckless and impulsive; the Dodgers and MLB risking infecting even more teammates by sticking a whole bunch of potentially infectious people on a plane together was an institutional failure of responsibility.

Getting back to Burneko’s point: There’s a common defense by people in power who want to deny responsibility for their actions that they’re just giving the people what they want, whether that thing that they want is carbon-spewing cars or cigarettes or guns or the freedom to decide whether to wear masks or, yes, billion-dollar sports stadiums to buy tickets to. (This is an especially common gambit by the people who stand to make money from the questionable items being sold.) But the whole point of being in power is that you have power, and by your actions, you set the stage for what behavior by other people is not just acceptable, but possible. So while it might be fun to blame Justin Turner for being a lunkhead, or people in Maine for holding that deadly wedding, a public health crisis like this one only highlights how vital it is to have some mechanism for authority — whether it’s an elected government, an unelected league management, or an anarcho-syndicalist executive officer of the week — who can and will establish and enforce rules about not being a lunkhead. All else, as we’ve so recently been reminded, ends in bears.

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16 comments on “More on Justin Turner’s maskless World Series celebration, which has nothing directly to do with stadiums but bear with me

  1. What do you expect? The rule and advice have been a mess since the beginning.

    The same people who were criticizing “large gatherings”, such as parties, religious services, and protests against lockdowns, were out there supporting demonstrations that that were hundreds to thousands of times as massive. NY’s idiot governor instituted an isolation plan for those who entered the state after threatening to sue Rhode Island for a similar measure months earlier. Governments opened casinos with mask exceptions for smoking while banning other types of business and events where precautions could be better adhered to. Politicians and other elites who command others to wear masks and avoid social gatherings were caught violating those orders (if only someone could enforce them!). It the worst cases they engaged in or encouraged risky behavior possibly before telling others not to do it. A local government exempted people from mask requirements based upon skin color.
    Rules in different parts of the same state led to people travelling from “hot spots” to other areas for various reasons. And the list goes on.

    All of these failures are the result of individuals. It is not institutions that can or will save us. The people need to believe that rules and advice are coming from sound science and facts. Hearing that rules and enforcement are dependent on viewpoint expressed or who you are is not going to do that. Experts and institutions need to look to science and facts to develop positions and policy even when those facts are unpopular.

    1. The mask exemption based on race is still a public safety measure…meaning that African Americans were fearful for their own safety and getting the police called on them entering public places with masks on. Seems like a logical exemption to me.

  2. Interesting perspective of covid messaging from back in august.

    1. “Critical measures, including staying home, physical distancing, wearing a face covering when in public, and keeping your hands clean are not designed to keep you safe — although they do. Rather, they’re meant for the greater good.”

      Yup, very much that. I realize that it’s hard for individuals, especially Americans, to get from “take action to keep yourself personally safe” to “take action to keep everyone safe in general, and others will do the same for you.” But I don’t think it’s entirely impossible for people to learn, or else everyone would just buy Humvees and drive them on the sidewalks.

  3. Idk picking and choosing where there is some sad modern “faux pa” about masks is so fake that there’s no news here. From many peoples real daily lives there is no truth to this narrative, SOME protests(and church and synagogue and mosque) without masks BAD, SOME, social justice marxism movements, all GOOD. Some schools are going to in person learning on a rotating basis, even full time in person, others are locked down where parents are expected to not work or arrange babysitters for online school, which they must pay for internet. There is a huge problem with CSU’s etc charging the same for stay at home university as well. There are plenty of local sports tournaments at the middle/high school level which had almost no masks and there were no breakouts. It’s just getting a little old this vicious conformist witch hunting and hypocrisy in all places.

    1. “There are plenty of local sports tournaments at the middle/high school level which had almost no masks and there were no breakouts.”

      No masks indoors? No masks for fans? Citation needed, I’m afraid.

    2. Not sure about the “no breakouts”. Perhaps few or none were reported directly. Where I live kids are back in school and positive cases are exploding (as you would expect, just as they are in bars and restaurants etc).

      75,000 new cases nationally on average for the last week across the US – Averaging over 1,000 deaths daily again. That’s roughly ten times the number of Americans who will be killed in car accidents nationally this year.

      Is it still a witch hunt if it finds lots of actual witches?

      1. This viruses body count doesn’t impress me enough to keep the economy shut down for years. In the short term? Only if you can prove you can keep the numbers down. They enacted draconian measures in Europe what came of it, the same as before.

        1. “They enacted draconian measures in Europe and what came of it”

          Well, the so called lockdowns dramatically reduced infections. I don’t know why you don’t know that. But it did happen. And the load on hospitals and healthcare staff (who were dying in Italy, France and New York) decreased.

          Then somebody said “well, we’ve won the battle” (actually several people said that for economic rather than public health reasons, and the people who said that were in a position to change the restrictions) and the decision was made to reopen practically everything in a large number of nations in Europe and now infection rates are spiking and hospitals are overwhelmed again.

          So, no, not the same as before. Not even close. Lockdowns work.

          You can certainly say “people are going to die and there isn’t much we can do” at present. But we don’t have to just mark them down as fatalities and thank them for their sacrifice to the US or world economy.

          Almost a full year into this and CoVid 19 deaths appear to be 2-4 times what the average annual deaths from influenza are.

          1. Europe did great until they reopened bars. It’s a pretty simple, and unsurprising, takeaway.

          2. So permanent lockdown and an end to a way of life is the solution for a virus with a 1% fatality rate? Just want to be clear on your position. I just hope the people not the elites should make that call.

          3. It doesn’t seem like you are trying to be clear on anyone’s position. It seems like you are attempting to mischaracterize same into a meaningless and reductionist sound bite (that neither Neil nor I used) for political effect. Let me help with that using a famous one from our collective recent history:

            “You are with us or you are with the terrorists”.

            There, now anyone who disagrees with me is by definition a terrorist. Aren’t reductionist arguments helpful?

            How is asking (or even mandating) that you wear a mask ending your way of life?

            Is it the people or the government who decided you aren’t allowed to drive your car down the sidewalk or while you are drunk?

            Isn’t that the end of a way of life too, by your definition?

          4. Let me rephrase the question. Permanent lockdowns mean no concerts, no movies and no ballgames for years maybe ever. Is that acceptable for a virus that might kill 1% of us? Based on the tone of your response. I’m going to assume the answer is yes. I’m a no

          5. Literally no one anywhere is suggesting permanent lockdowns. But until there’s a workable vaccine, there need to be periodic lockdowns once you get surges in the virus, to keep them from exploding exponentially.

            Also, 1% of the world population is 75 million people. Just sayin’.

  4. Sure, Turner shouldn’t have gone back on the field to celebrate with his team. It was a bad look, and perhaps marginally increased the risk of infection to his teammates.

    That said, I hope no-one believes that Turner somehow became more infectious after the 7th inning of game 6 than he had been before.

    The real story here is not one player who was pulled from a world championship game 3/4s of the way through and who, plainly, wasn’t all that crazy about missing the celebrations. It’s that baseball’s much vaunted testing program somehow allowed a player who would test positive after an indeterminate test to take the field at all. Make that ‘at least one’ player.

    Well, that and the fact that the Marlins front office is somehow getting credit for putting together a roster of castoffs and not ready for prime time players who were much, much better than the guys they were paying significant amounts of money to be first teamers.

    Seems like they are getting rave reviews for assembling a team of guys in preseason who weren’t better than guys they grabbed more or less off the street. That’s an odd thing to heap praise on talent evaluators for.

    Baseball is a funny game sometimes.

    1. Baseball is weird that way.

      And I suppose that’s the basic rationale for “moneyball” since it really doesn’t take “great” players to have some success.

      And by the way, it’s funnier still that the marlins are the team who had the first covid outbreak … which caused them to use some of those backup players in the first place.

      I guess that’s about as full circle as you can get.

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