Why canceling sports hurts
It’s March and there’s no madness on the horizon. The sports world came to a screeching halt this week as many events were canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, including the NCAA Tournament, all NCAA spring and winter sports, the PGA Tour, and the NBA, MLB, and NHL.
I understand these are necessary precautions. And if it keeps the virus from spreading, and keeps us all healthier, it’s absolutely worth it. But two things can be true at once. I can understand all that, and be sad for the moments we’re missing, including the one shining one.
This is my favorite time of year. We make brackets and root for Cinderellas. This time of year embodies a lot of the best parts of us. Coming together, growing through competition, rooting for the underdog. Maybe that’s what I’m missing.
But it’s more than that.
First it was basketball. Then it was all college spring sports. Then it was my beloved baseball. Now I’m facing for the first time in my life a world without the sports I grew up with. It feels like a loss because in many ways, these things have been ever-present in my life.
I don’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t watching baseball, even when it was sitting on my dad’s lap in his recliner watching old World Series replays. Or my whole family gathered around the TV in the kitchen watching March Madness and eating too much junk food.
We’re left to face March without any of this and it doesn’t compute.
I also know spectators aren’t the most impacted by this. My heart breaks for the seniors whose seasons were just abruptly ended after years of work. For the performances we won’t get to see. We won’t see Sabrina Ionescu win a national championship. We won’t see what Luka Garza, Cassius Winston, Obi Toppin or so many others could have done on the biggest stage.
If this is the last picture of Cassius Winston in a Spartan uniform, I’m proud he’s leaving as a champion.— Joel (@NobodyEpic) March 12, 2020
He deserves the chance to compete for the national title after all he’s been through, but no matter what, he will go down as one of the most beloved players in MSU history. pic.twitter.com/bZvtRpRKuZ
I worry about the peripheral figures in all of these sporting events who really lose. The staffs of these venues, the officials, the concessionaires, the mom and pop sporting good stores who no longer need to make high school tournament champions jerseys, because there won’t be any.
We won’t have opening day to graciously ease us out of college basketball season. There’s something poetic about the NBA season being postponed in a year when we lost one of its greatest stars.
I need to hear the crack of a bat, and I’m guessing that urge will get worse before it gets better. I find myself wanting to make brackets anyway, about anything. So if you’re a detoxing bracket junkie like me, feel free to send me one, about anything… the best snack food, the best mob movie, the best Sports Night episode or Stevie Wonder song.
The most frequent recurring sentiment these days is ‘it’s just sports’. I guess that’s true on the face of it. There’s people in this world, hard as it may be to understand, who live every single day with no sports.
But for those of us who consider sports a part of our lives, I think it’s more than that. Sports are our escape. When the politics couldn’t get any more vitriolic, and the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, we can turn to sports and feel okay for a while. But when that’s taken away, we’re forced to face the world and right now things feel grim.
I have hope that it will get better. I have to believe I’ll get to hear the roar of a crowd at Wrigley this summer, and we’ll crown an NBA champion. Maybe we’ll even get to see some beautiful shots of Amen Corner.
Until then, if anyone needs me I’ll be watching old One Shining Moments, the 2019 Masters, and Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. And praying for the first Saturday in May.