Baseball had its chance to unite the country, and boy did it deliver -- Americans may not agree on much, but we sure do hate the national pastime.

A sport stumbling towards on-field irrelevance is now gripped by utter insanity off of it, and whether or not it returns for a pointless 48-game season this summer, it's going to discover that we can live just fine without it.

The latest round of scorched earth rhetoric has the owners accusing the players of bad-faith negotiating -- how dare they try to play MORE games -- and the players responding that the league should just impose its little quarter season so we can get this misery over with.

Fans, meanwhile, have had it. I've devoted my adulthood to covering the sport, and I've never questioned my life choices until now. It's not even that the sides are trying to out-greed each other, it's that they have so little respect for the state of the world that they believe this fight actually matters.

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It doesn't, and they're lucky their ballparks will be empty by mandate this summer, because otherwise they'd have to explain fans staying away by choice.

Baseball has become so tone-deaf it can't differentiate the first hopeful notes of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" from the menacing bass of Darth Vader's "Imperial March." Those same kids who once didn't care if they never got back are now playing soccer and lacrosse and Animal Crossing. They don't pay enough attention to baseball to hate it.

 

But us grownups do, and our tolerance for being sickened, revolted, and disgusted is at an all-time low. Everyone understands that the coronavirus may make playing sports too dangerous and therefore impossible. The NBA players are grappling with this question, and letting college football happen feels like borderline child abuse.

What we can't stomach is the not even trying. Baseball owners clearly have little interest in playing this season and so they cry poor even as word leaks that they're nearing a $1 billion deal to broadcast the playoffs. Their primary goal seems to be crushing the union in advance of 2021 CBA negotiations, and every offer they've made boils down to the same equation -- we'll play you 33 percent of your original salaries, and whether that's spread over 50 games or 82 games is up to you.

How this qualifies as "negotiating" will undoubtedly be argued when the players file their inevitable grievance (yay! lawsuits!), but it's already too late.

It's like baseball is daring us to do something else with our summer, and here's hoping the season overlaps with enough of the NBA and NHL playoffs for MLB to be thoroughly annihilated in the ratings until football arrives to finish the job. May baseball games draw half the audience of Paw Patrol and that little sad-sack Caillou. The sport needs to be sent a message, even if it's vulgar:

BLEEP YOU. All of you. Your actions guarantee that the game will emerge from this crisis damaged and diminished, and you deserve it.