The Kalispell Lakers were in town to play the Butte Miners for the home team’s first American Legion Baseball games of the season on Miners Field at 3 Legends Stadium.
Like it was for every game since the May 30 opener, the concession stand was closed. That is part of the safety regulations in the return-to-play policy set by the Miners and the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department.
They also had some seats blocked off in the grandstands, and some areas roped off so players can keep a safe distance.
Players were not supposed to shake hands, give high fives or chew on sunflower seeds.
A Kalispell dad had a minor beef with the setup, and not because the men’s room was out of hand soap. Rather, this guy wanted a hamburger.
“Why is the concession stand close?” he asked.
“I believe the health department mandates it be closed because of the pandemic,” I answered.
“That his crazy,” the guy said. “We sold 400 hamburgers last weekend. That’s a lot of money they’re letting walk out the door.”
Plus, the guy did not have time to stop on his way to town, so he was starving.
While I definitely would error on the side of the local health department’s decision to run things the way they have in Butte as opposed to the way they chose to conduct business in Kalispell, I had to shake my head at the maddening inconsistency of it all.
Inconsistency has been the word most used to describe the reaction to the coronavirus response, whether it is local or on the state and national levels.
Form the very start, we have been one big inconsistent mess.
When four cases of the coronavirus popped up in the state on March 13, all of the Montana High School Association basketball tournaments had to be canceled.
After hearing of the news, so many of the out-of-town spectators shook their head in disbelief and then took their kids to jump into the crowded hotel swimming pool. Or, they went to a jam-packed bars and restaurants to talk about the scary virus.
Since that infamous date, everything has been consistently inconsistent, to borrow a line from legendary Montana Tech coach Bob Green.
Never has that inconsistency been more infuriating than last week when the Missoula County Health Department shut down an in-progress American Legion baseball tournament.
The plug was pulled on the Missoula Mavericks’ Memorial Baseball Tournament after a complaint was filed about the crowd size, and it had nothing to do with those pesky kids on TikTok.
The county says baseball games, or any other games, cannot have a crowd of more than 50. If you get two teams together, along with coaches and an umpire, that leaves room for like three people to do the wave in the stands.
With other teams waiting around to play next, the health department figured social distancing was impossible, and thus a violation of county police.
So, instead watching baseball in Missoula, fans from the teams from out of town and out of state likely went to some Missoula shops and restaurants, where they can transmit the virus, too, before taking their tourist dollars elsewhere.
Meanwhile, other cities and towns around the state hosted tournaments. Missoula had a soccer tournament in town, Hamilton had a youth baseball tournament, and Bozeman, the state’s COVID-19 hot spot, held a Legion tournament.
“Honestly I don’t understand the realm of the thing,” Mavericks manager Brent Hathaway told Jordan Hansen and Frank Gogola of the Missoulian. “Because there’s already been a baseball tournament held in Missoula County. Nothing was said about it. We have a farmer’s market in the city, they’re open and running. We have a soccer tournament… it’s just crazy to me.”
Without question, I would lean toward believing the health department doing the right thing. The timing of the cancellation, which was unfortunate for all involved, had to have been a miscommunication that was not necessarily the fault of any government bureaucrat.
It was just an unfortunate mix up.
At the same time, however, you have to wonder why it is OK to do some things but not others.
Movie theaters are open. Restaurants are serving dine-in meals. People are hopping from bar to bar. Water parks are opening.
Oh, and there was something on the news about almost a million people requesting tickets for some political rally in Oklahoma.
Social distancing is more of a theory in most of those places, too. Yes, a lot of responsible people are acting the way that they should. But others close talk like Judge Reinhold.
Meanwhile, the state registered 69 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, making the health department in Missoula look smarter by the hour.
Remember, it took four — FOUR — cases in the state to wipe out the hopes and championship-game dreams of so many high school boys and girls when the tournaments were called after the semifinals on March 13.
Four cases started it all in Montana, how many businesses have been ruined, jobs lost and hoops dreams crushed since?
Are we overacting? Were all those championship games lost in vain. Could we have played the games after all?
Since all those fans and players were already in Missoula, couldn’t we have let them finish the tournament?
Is it really a good idea for us to live like we are on Cloud 9 when we are only on Phase 2?
Are we only making matters worse by pretending this whole pandemic is over? Is taking this thing lightly now only rubbing salt into the wounds of seasons lost?
A little consistency could go a long way toward helping us all know the answer to those questions. As it is, these mixed messages are complicating what really is a matter of life and death.
Like why couldn’t somebody get that guy a burger?
— Bill Foley, who will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today, writes a column that usually appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. He is writing more frequently during the coronavirus lockdown. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.