When Normalcy Leaves Us
Yes, this is an article about Coronavirus and sports. But if you haven’t noticed, sports have a funny way of showing us what is really important in life. It has become a mirror to who we are as people and what we really value most. For me and how I have watched it, I have seen sports as a way to rally us all together when the worst in humanity tried to rip us out of our normalcy. All you have to do is see how sports brought back that sense of normal after 9/11, Boston, and other dark days in our history. Sports were there to be a comfort as we kind of knew what was going to happen next. We could take comfort in knowing what was going to happen because we knew the rules of the game that were before us. Was it perfect? No. But for at least a couple of hours, you could sit down and relax for just that moment.
Sports were there whenever we needed it and the way we wanted it. Yes, there has been a short pause here and there but there was the certainty that it would be back in the way we know it will be there. That was the comfort and the promise of sports. We’ll be here when you need us most.
In January of this year, that started to change due to a virus that at the time had no real name. We would later know it as COVID-19. In due time, its impacts would be known to the world. We as sports fans saw a few international events get canceled or postponed and some leagues stopped dead in their tracks. For us fans in the United States, there was a belief that was a problem for everyone else in the world. This is America! Sports will continue here even with no crowds around. That idea was talked about by the NCAA and others at the time. For the most part, normalcy continued on with sports being right there. Leagues knew what could happen but a shutdown is totally unlikely for us here in America!
We started to see it here in Columbus when those international concerns shut down The Arnold Fitness Classic. The words of overreach and overreaction to a virus that isn’t here were said. Strangely, that would be our introduction to what normal could be here. A normal where we could not be allowed to see our favorite teams in person. A normal where the only way to see is to watch on TV. It was foreign and it was strange to watch an event without a crowd there. Cheering them on. Reacting to every single moment of action before us. Just silence where cheers or jeers should be heard and experienced. Even with that sports were going to deal with that adjusted normal for everyone. Even if it meant keeping the normal of sports going.
That was going to be the way normalcy continued on, until the night of March 11, 2020. We will now know the name of Rudy Gobert in the annals of history forevermore. We even remember the time watching it at 8:30 p.m. that night. This was a major wake up call to everyone who is a sports fan. Coronavirus wasn’t just something crazy that China was dealing with. It is now something that was here and clearly present in America. It has marched into our normalcy we expected and replaced with a new one that we are still uncomfortable with. The NBA suspended their season that night and within 24 hours every major sports league followed suit with the NCAA doing the unthinkable. The 2020 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and with it all winter and spring sports championships were for the first time in history, canceled. Even here in Ohio, the OHSAA put the pause button on finals that were to be played that weekend. Langston Hughes once asked what would happen to a dream deferred. That week, we had an unfortunate front-row seat of what it looks like when a dream isn’t just deferred but denied outright by no fault of anyone but of only fate itself.
Within a week we learned about what a “Stay at Home” order is all about. We saw things that we thought couldn’t happen here in the United States. We saw a life that we took as normal turned upside down and inside out in a snap of a finger. We had to learn new rules and procedures that weren’t even on our minds just a couple of weeks before then. And through all this, our one distraction in a crazy world going crazier was missing. Sports weren’t there at all as even they were wrapped up in this situation and the “new” normal that we are now in. Sports as something we took as given in life was missing. It wasn’t there to welcome us. It wasn’t there to tell us its stories. It couldn’t even write its own history as something new and fresh. We couldn’t share it all together as that is the one thing we could not be at this moment. This was normal for now. This is normal in the age of COVID-19.
But I’ve noticed something else as well. Sports at the very heart of it all are the deepest reflection of who we really are as a community. I have seen teams and organizations across the world use that connection that we have as fans to bring us together to help one another. Even the masks that we now wear actually show the pride of our sports team on them. It is not crazy to see an Ohio State or Blue Jackets, or even a Crew SC mask around town. We have seen communities large and small honor those senior athletes that won’t have the chance to write their stories but they do know that it wasn’t for nothing at all. They know no matter what, they will be going out on top. The question of sports coming back is being asked by all and myself as well. There is a longing to get back to whatever normal is going to be for now. But for right now a tip of the cap will do.
Sports has a habit of showing heroes to us when you least expect it. We have learned during The COVID-19 Outbreak, that is even true in real life as well, That heroes are the least likely people you’ll expect. Yes, we have the expected stars of the game, the doctors, the nurses, and our first responders. We expect them as MVPs in this. But we have learned that our bus drivers, mail carriers, garbage collectors, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, restaurant workers, and others you may not think of are all putting in MVP performances as well to keep us going and rolling on with life. They are your unexpected heroes in this. Let‘s be thankful that they are there helping us through this.
Sports on the surface might not look like one of those necessary things when this began, but it is becoming clear it is something that will be our guide to our comeback story. Through sports, we will see that no matter the odds we can carry on even with everything going against us. Sports are asking the same question we are asking here, What will it take to get back to a semblance of normalcy? Are we really ready and willing to do what it takes to get there? What it will look like, I don’t know yet? Will it mean that what it might look like be considered normal? Does it mean we have to adjust what we expect out of it? Will some leagues survive to see the other side of this? These are the things we don’t know yet. But it is very clear that sports are something we need more than ever before. Sports is that connection to normal for us all. Sports feeds that normal connection to belonging to something that may seem bigger than us. Well, it seems, as we all have experienced something bigger than we have ever seen in our lifetimes and I’ve seen we will be alright after all of this. We’re sports fans! It's just what we do.