Sports in the Time of COVID

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Photo courtesy of ABS CBN News

A number of years ago, I, a plucky middle school student, sat down in front of a television and watched a young adult television show called “The 100.” The show took place decades after the end of civilization. The surviving humans lived on a spaceship. In one scene, the characters were sitting around a television watching a decades-old soccer match. 

After a goal was scored one character turned toward his celebrating friend and uttered, “It’s not over yet!” “Well technically,” his companion replied, “It was over almost a hundred years ago.” 

“Boy,” I thought. “What a terrible world, where the only sports entertainment in existence are recordings of past games. I sure am glad that’s not the world we live in.”

Fast forward almost exactly six years and I, an overworked college student, sat down in front of my television, turned on YouTube, and watched a three-year-old Thursday Night Football game between the Rams and 49ers. 

“Boy,” I thought. “This really is the world we’re living in.”

Last Spring the world shut down. Our biggest problem was people hoarding hand sanitizer and toilet paper and we had to stock up on groceries because we weren’t sure what stores would remain open, but there was another commodity that suddenly became non-existent: sports.

An early sign that this whole “Corona” thing everyone was talking about was a big deal was when the NCAA canceled March Madness. Then, the NBA suspended their season. Then, the MLB shut things down. And the sports world, just like the real world, went into hibernation. 

For the first time since World War II, the pastime that gave us all a collective escape from the horrors of the real world disappeared. In a summer of civil unrest, a global pandemic causing a state-mandated lockdown, small and large businesses going under, and suicide rates skyrocketing across the country, we had no relief, no sports to take refuge in. 

And then slowly, things started to come back. The NBA held its tournament in a bubble. The MLB played a truncated season. The NFL had its annual draft over Zoom, canceled its preseason, and, with restrictions and regulations galore, ran a full season without canceling a single game.

Was it normal? Not even close. The cardboard cutouts and artificial crowd noise were nice touches but made everything feel abnormal. Other oddities included the Ravens playing a game on a Wednesday afternoon, the Broncos played a game without a quarterback, and the Browns played a playoff game without their head coach, because he had tested positive. 

Yet, sports were back. Even though they were anything but normal, it helped us feel a little more like we were back to old times. 

Now here we are. The Super Bowl kicked off this last Sunday, the NBA started its second COVID season, and the University of Dallas will, for the first time in almost a year, be returning to the world of athletics. 

Now, with a vaccine entering the field of play, and businesses starting to fill rosters again, it doesn’t matter how many games our Crusaders win, because just by getting ourselves off the bench, we’re working our way towards a major comeback.

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