When what doesn't really matter starts to matter even less
March arrives draped with imagery that can break your heart into 100 pieces, from the dull fear to the searing panic, from the epic madness to the near-limitless historical damage — and that's just what I'm absorbing from the coverage of the baseball lockout.
But this is, in a roundabout sense, part of the problem, right?
In Ukraine, where the human suffering multiplies by the minute in the mindless path of runaway autocracy — or "peacekeeping," as Vladimir Putin calls it — the whole sordid story still had to elbow its way toward its rightful perspective.
The danger is not that the Russian invasion and the stunning resistance of the heroic Ukrainians will obscure from our consciousness things that used to pass for news. The danger is that it won't.
The virus, the climate and, yes, even the slip-sliding trend in America's intellectual backwaters away from our democratic heritage are all minor stories compared to Russia's twisted game in Ukraine. If it weren't so achingly tragic, so potentially metastatic, the counterweights of the old journalism where the "nuclear option" meant ending the filibuster would be downright hilarious.
Ironically enough, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy defends his nation with a warrior's heart, it goes with a comic's mournful soul.
Through no fault of their own, the people and places and purposes that must still show up in the dwindling space often introduced by the phrase "in other news" are looking much, much worse for the wear. Stories you only suspected were meaningless have been diminished to self-conscious embarrassment.
At least I hope as much.
Major League Baseball is at this moment arguing with its players over things like whether the minimum salary should be $775,000 or something closer to $700,000. They didn't time it out this way, but it's a terrible look.
Former Attorney General William Barr couldn't have known this would be an awkward week to start selling his Donald Trump tell-all book, written in the typically cloying style of the principled public servant who knew all along that things were acutely dysfunctional in an administration he helped enable for far too long.
"Trump cared only about thing — himself," is Barr's money quote for the book that drops March 8.
Really? I'd never have suspected.
"Country and principle took second place."
Really? I think it was more a tie for 72nd place, but you know what, Bill, just stick it. For 95% of your tenure, you were a primary lickspittle Trump apologist, and there's no going back, no matter how many copies you sell.
Fat Tuesday doesn't seem quite so festive, despite New Orleans' noble decision to light up the Superdome in blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. If the annual Mardi Gras observance is in any way related to the reason people are showing up in Giant Eagle in their jammie bottoms and slippers, I'd love to be in on the joke.
Also, and not to put too fine a point on it, images of Chelsea Handler skiing topless on her birthday with a drink in one hand and a joint in the other somehow can't sustain the laughs that it might have, given, you know, everything.
Even the Righteous Gemstones of CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, got their unfortunate scheduling throttled by the very Russians who helped push their orange messiah into the White House in 2016.
Trump used the just-completed forum to restate for the 500th time that Putin is smart and the U.S. is dumb, but no one had the time or the inclination this week to reflect on being called dumb by the guy who couldn't quite decide whether it was the potential of the injected disinfectant or the "very powerful light" that knocks COVID from the body in one minute.
Not even Monday's email indicating that Hulu is sustaining the inexplicable careers of the Kardashians was immune from this epidemic of colossally bad timing. Sure, it's wonderful that a fresh round of Kardashian hijinks commences April 14 (snort!), but no amount of spin should divert much attention to it, which didn't keep Hulu's spinners from trying, bless their hearts.
"The family you know and love is here with a brand new series, giving an all access pass into their lives," my email says. "Kris, Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, Kendall and Kylie bring the cameras back to give truth to their stories. From the intense pressures of running billion-dollar businesses to the hilarious joys of playtime and school drop-offs, this series brings viewers into the fold with a rivetingly honest story of love & life in the spotlight."
The hilarious joys of school drop-offs?
Naw, I'm good.
Suddenly, the baseball situation doesn't look quite so stupid.