I’ve had trouble coming up with a word or witty metaphor that best describes the last few days in the world of sports or lack thereof. Because frankly, I’ve never experienced anything close to it in my 22 years of sports fandom.
All of sports, better yet all of society, has hit the pause button in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, which was officially labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Schools have been shut down, grocery stores have been stripped bare, and all of our livelihoods for the most part have been thrown for a loop. Our daily sense of normalcy looks to be absent for the foreseeable future.
Coming To Grips
In all honesty, when all of this insanity first started rearing its ugly head, I don’t think I treated it as seriously as I should have. I wasn’t totally clueless as to the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the globe and into the US. But I just couldn’t see it seeping into my way of life. I consider myself a pretty healthy and hygienic guy, and no one around me was potentially carrying the virus. Essentially, I viewed it as everyone else’s problem and not mine. I had more important things to worry about than some random virus.
It wasn’t until I was sent home from Fordham, along with the rest of my fellow classmates, last Monday that it all really started to hit me. My mind instantly started moving at a million miles per hour. This thing is the real deal, and everyday life as we know it is about to get flipped upside down potentially for the long run. I need to go wash my hands immediately.
Yet the one thing I hadn’t considered was sports being impacted by all of this. It’s as if I thought they would be the lone exception. Even if you don’t care a little too much about sports like myself, they still serve as the ultimate escape. An escape from all the everyday hassles: a tough day at work or school, existential despair, slow drivers, everything. Even in this nation’s darkest days (a la the September 11th attacks), sports found a way to assist in healing wounds and aid in people’s transition back to everyday life.
But what do you do when the one thing you can turn to in a time of crisis isn’t available? I just refused to believe that this whole situation was possibly destructive enough to reach an area of life that seemed almost invincible to things like these.
As the old adage goes, hindsight is 20/20. And looking back, I was probably a little too naive as to the gravity of what was happening. As much as we like to treat sports as a constant, they’re more so a luxury. They can be taken away at any moment under the right (or wrong) circumstances.
Reality Sets In
Nevertheless, it still seems surreal that it has actually reached this point. We already had the feeling drastic action was going to be taken in the days leading up to this past Thursday. As the CDC, WHO, and local governments began to strongly advise against large gatherings, the NHL and NBA had begun planning on playing games without fans in attendance. The NCAA was leaning towards doing the same with March Madness, as was the PGA and NASCAR. Numerous soccer leagues throughout the world also followed suit. A world in which the stands of professional sporting events mirrored that of high school JV baseball games was looking more and more likely.
We were pretty much one misstep away from an even bigger breaking point. And that came in the form of Wednesday night’s revelation that Jazz big man Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the virus, who subsequently passed it on to teammate Donovan Mitchell. Once that news broke, that was it. You knew that it was only a matter of time before we saw unprecedented action be taken.
The NBA took the lead by immediately suspending the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. It was a domino effect from then on. What ensued was a never-ending avalanche of bad news:
BREAKING: Inter Miami owner Jorge Mas: "We've made a decision as a league this morning, as owners, that play will be suspended temporarily."— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) March 12, 2020
MLS shutting down. Mas says the target is 30 days.
The NHL season has officially been suspended. No surprise. There is hope to resume.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 12, 2020
BREAKING: Major League Baseball has officially suspended spring-training games and will delay the start of the regular season by at least two weeks.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 12, 2020
The NCAA has canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and March Madness.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 12, 2020
NCAA canceled its remaining winter and spring championships.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2020
It is with regret that we are announcing the cancellation of THE PLAYERS Championship and all events through the Valero Texas Open. https://t.co/r01TeB83yK— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 13, 2020
And that’s just an abbreviated list.
Each new alert of a league suspending play was like a roundhouse to the face. I finally know how Ben Askren felt when he took that Masvidal flying knee straight to the dome. Except it felt like taking five or six of them instead of just one.
Dealing With The Purge
Friday was the first full day of the sports purge, and the reality of everything started to set in. I couldn’t help but feel empty. Sports encapsulate so much of my life, and now they’re just not going to be there for the time being. No games to watch with my folks over dinner. No Sixers games to get irrationally angry over. Heck, no random League Pass games to idiotically gamble on with the little money I have to my name. No meaningless Spring Training games. Nothing. Shoot, not even e-sports were safe.
E-sports, too: the NBA 2K League is expected to announce tonight that it is postponing the start of its season, which had been scheduled to begin on March 24. The league and 2K are working closely to see if it is possible to play games remotely, source says.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) March 12, 2020
This is a nightmare for all of us sports fans. It’s even more hellish if you’re an athlete. There isn’t a league or organization at every level of athletics that hasn’t been affected. Even my club baseball season couldn’t be salvaged. All those hours you spent in the gym almost feel wasted. As a team, you can’t finish what you started. And most importantly, college seniors were robbed of a proper send off.
Nobody comes out of this thing a winner.
Well, except maybe Netflix, Hulu, and Charmin.
But I think I speak for the majority when I say that sports taking a backseat for the common good is undoubtedly for the better. We’re all in the middle of something that goes beyond sports. Each and every one of us has to do our part in preventing this pandemic from becoming a global catastrophe. And if that means sports have to hit the breaks for some time, then so be it.
Yet being the ultimate optimist that I am, I do find that there is at least one silver lining in all of this. Times like these are a good time to take inventory. The little things in life we often take for granted now have our full attention. Catching up on sleep, taking care of our health, reevaluating our habits, spending time with our loved ones. It goes without saying, but there’s way more to life than sports. Times like these just serve as hard reminders of that.
Even then, sports aren’t dead. It’s not like they went extinct. We can still find ways to continue enjoying them. Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are all still things. But there’s no doubt it’s going to be a little while before we can enjoy the thrill of a live sporting event either remotely or in-person and fully return to some sense of normalcy in that respect. Still, when that day does come, don’t call it a comeback.