Sports and COVID-19
No sports?! What do we do between now and Opening Day?
It took just a few hours on March 11th for life in America to change completely.
Yes – people had been uneasy, but things weren’t bad like in other countries. Then President Trump gave a somber address shifting COVID-19 from a nagging concern to an immediate national threat. Next the widely beloved Tom Hanks shared he was diagnosed with coronavirus. And the trifecta dropped when we heard Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert – a 2020 an All Star and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year – had COVID-19. Before that news sunk in, Commissioner Adam Silver announced the NBA season was suspended. It made sense health-wise. The NBA is all about boxing out, sharing the ball, and getting up into the other guy’s face. That’s more chance for straight-on coronavirus transmission than most of us would have in months.
Of course, the NHL followed suit, along with baseball’s spring training, pro wrestling, March Madness, the Masters, on and on. Our national pastimes just went poof and disappeared. Shots of stadiums full of empty seats were eerie as a ghost. A lot of us are used to coming home from work, plopping on the couch and catching a game. At lunch break, we might pause to check the box scores. These bits of sports are footholds throughout our day. They give us a little reprieve from the pressure and rushing around. Looking for a silver lining in all of this? The Mariners are in first place! Actually, Seattle is tied for first place with every other team, each with a 0-0 record. But it’s first place all the same.
We need sports more than ever.
Sports are not a life and death thing. But I’m reminded of a story a sportswriter shared a few years back. He loved sports more than anyone, but he was a little embarrassed by his profession. He was a grown man devoting his days to games. Then he lost his mother to cancer. Grief just swallowed him whole. And part of that grief was he couldn’t sleep a wink. Depressed and battered, he found a reprieve. In bed, in the dark, he started replaying the most important games in his head. The World Series, Super Bowl, Final Four, NBA finals. He relived the thousands of games his profession enabled him to see in person. Triples plays, flea flickers, logo 3-pointers. Plus the regular stuff – the grind-out fullbacks busting through the line for first downs, goalies withstanding shot after shot on goal, a crossover dribble, or a drag bunt single. He immersed himself in the things he loved. Then sleep found him, sweetly giving him relief. It was much better than counting sheep!
Life has become hard — and just when we need them most, sports have gone missing. But don’t let the fact that ESPN has stopped live broadcast sink you into depression: revel in past moments of glory. Catch your favorite games of the past, and remember why the greats were so great! Also, settle in real quiet and think for a moment how indescribably sweet opening day will be. A batter will dig in next to the plate. A pitcher will wind up. And in that moment, a rush of anticipation will take over, all the pain will drop away, and the world will be well, perfectly well.
A footnote: If you want to check out the intersection between sports and COIVD-19, see Stephen Curry’s interview of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who serves on the President’s Coronavirus Task Force: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRwkNQXbGKg