More Than a Game
The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting absence of sports has made one thing clear. Our attitude towards sports—our assertion that they’re just hobbies, just pastimes, just cheap entertainment—has been far too flippant.
May 30, 2020
The absence of any kind of televised sports over the last two months is wreaking havoc on my household. Two months ago, at precisely 7:10 PM every night, you would have found my dad and brother glued to the TV watching their beloved San Francisco Giants. If the game was not televised, it would be on the radio, on an iPad, or phone. If the game wasn’t actively being watched or listened to, there would be frequent check-ins on the MLB app for score updates.
On March 11, and then March 12, the NBA and then MLB and NHL, respectively suspended their 2020 seasons to prevent the spread of coronavirus among athletes and fans. Without the play by play soundtrack of Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper, and John Miller, family dinners just haven’t been the same.
Televised sports are not the only thing put on pause. Athletes around the world have been forced to quit mid-season, leaving their hard work, sacrifices, and opportunities on the backburner. Suspended, gone, and wiped away, the “might have been” season will be just that for student-athletes, college prospects, and professional players, as if the 2020 sports season never existed.
Today, would have been the day I was supposed to leave for my regional qualifier in Reno for volleyball. However, these days I participate in remote workouts with my teammates over Zoom calls. It’s hardly the way I hoped to be playing my sport, but it is similar to so many other girls in the travel or club volleyball world.
Being unable to participate in a sport that I love so much has been extremely difficult, not only for me, but for my coaches, my family, and friends who enjoy watching me grow, develop, and mature as an athlete.
Of course, it is good to know that American priorities are straight and that public health is more important than the cancelation of March Madness. Yet having such a big part of our everyday lives cut off so unexpectedly is like the country sustaining a season-ending injury.
With March Madness, the Master’s tournament, NFL, MLB, NHL, and NCAA Championships, and many more events canceled, everything has changed. It makes one question, are we lost without sports? Sports are an enormous part of American culture. It brings people together. Whether you are an athlete hoping to play in college, a kid who wants to swim like Michal Phelps, a fan supporting the local high school football team, or even an employee chatting sports scores in the elevator at work–the culture and language of sports bring people together in so many different ways.
Throughout history, examples of civilizations coming together to watch and support various sports abound, think of Greek marathoners, Greco-Roman wrestlers, Mayan ball courts, and decathlon just to name a few. Even if these events didn’t include professional, trained athletes, they still created a way for people to come together and celebrate a common interest. Sports can provide a distraction from the daily grind of work or study; we can take a break and instead watch someone kick a ball around a field.
Sports should really be considered the ultimate storybook, each season, and each athlete a new chapter in the novel. We flip back a couple of chapters for each “Remember the ‘87 Duke versus UNC game?” or “I still remember the game-winning touchdown.”
These stories keep communities together, giving us all a feeling of connection, win or lose, rain or shine, and despite our political views, family lives, and day to day struggles. I cannot tell you the number of conversations I have had regarding the latest baseball trades that have helped me strengthen my relationships with everyone from my teachers to kids I meet at AJ tutoring on Tuesday nights. Somehow these conversations keep me sane.
It is not just a game. It’s an escape and a safe space for people of all ages to chant and cheer side by side, share comfort food, dress up in crazy costumes, to joke and tell stories all with complete strangers, be a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s upsetting to think of the younger generations who may never experience sports the same way we have.
The question is, what stories are we going to tell now? How are we supposed to replace a traditional American pastime, a chance to cheer for the underdog, that we have lost so abruptly?
Americans are getting desperate and amusingly creative when finding sports alternatives to watch throughout the day. My family has found entertainment in sports documentaries, Korean baseball, ax throwing tournaments, and of course, MLB World Series reruns.
Although sports broadcasters have found ways to keep running segments, there are only so many reruns you can play, only so many fan(less) arena shots, only one season of The Last Dance, and limited stories you can write about how much we all miss sports. Let’s face it, America: we are lost.
We are in uncharted territory. Fans are doing whatever they can to get by without their favorite sports. Although it’s only temporary, it is crucial to keep athletes and fans safe. So many still feel as though something is missing, like a gaping hole in our everyday lives.
When I think of the stories my grandfather shares with my brother and myself it makes us closer and encourages me to do my best relating to my own game of volleyball and life overall. In a time where we are unable to write new stories, coming together to reflect on the accomplishments of the past will help us conquer the present. We need sports to get us through this tough time, we need Kerri Walsh and Steph Curry, we need Alex Morgan to motivate us to our best selves and to lift our spirits. Unlike politics and fear which divide us, we need our heroes to unify and inspire us.
And when we finally get to settle down on our couches or take a seat in a stadium chair to watch our favorite sports, we will appreciate the game just a little more than we did before.