When sports return after COVID-19, you will certainly feel it. Check that, you will know it.
About one month ago, the country became overwhelmed by the novel coronavirus outbreak and the sports world felt its impact. First the NBA, then NHL, MLB, MLS and all of the NCAA, so before you knew it, sporting venues joined bustling cities, businesses, restaurants, beaches and public spaces in absolute emptiness and silence. Suddenly, as an unprecedented moment swept the nation, we were left to brave the storm without one of the United States’ greatest lifelines and distractions: sports.
For the last 30 days, it has been difficult to grasp the new reality of no sports. In what is deemed the second-best time in the sports calendar, there is no excitement or “madness” in the air.
The NBA’s best are not preparing to battle each other in the playoffs. Ballparks are not preparing the fields and filling up the seats with young, bright-eyed fans for the first baseball of the season. Busting brackets, Cinderella stories and cutting down the nets are special, celebratory moments that won’t happen this year.
Even in our own communities, the beloved courts and fields that adorn the local parks are left as desolate as the program schedules for local and national sports channels. Little Leaguers aren’t seen running around in a childlike euphoria after a big hit. The rowdy voices of a contested pickup basketball game have hushed. A traditional gathering place instead isolated itself.
In such a physically and mentally testing time, we look for something to take us away from the real world for a few hours, but we struggle to fill the void that’s been left. We watch the calendar get pushed further back and events hang in the balance. For the sports fan, along with the rest of the world, the questions asked are “will things get better?” and “will sports return?”
The answer to both is yes. Things will get better, normalcy will resume and sports will be back.
When sports return after COVID-19, it will feel like the end of the longest offseason.
Many will wake up and tune into SportsCenter to get their daily dose of sports coverage. The ESPN Bottom Line will show matchup after matchup, and they will know their teams are back. Once again there will be something to watch and cheer for, and the cheers will certainly be at their loudest.
The American spirit will shine as bright the lights of the arenas and stadiums that torch the skies as thousands proudly render their historical anthems. Chants of defense and carols of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” will reverberate loudly from the opening tip to the last pitch. Names will be curtain called, rally towels will wave in every seat and the first celebrations will last a few moments longer.
Hearing the dribble of a basketball or crackling of a baseball bat will be equivalent to the sound of waves riding up to the shore. With every dunk, contested shot, hit off the wall, home run blast, touchdown or goal, history will be more deeply etched as the greatest voices eulogize the moment. Every play will receive more attention.
Young, aspiring fans and rowdy college students will don their favorite player’s jersey or school colors in the streets, at school, in the parks or at tailgates to the stadium. They will chase down their stars for autographs, attempt to imitate their athleticism and share their fandom with others.
Most importantly, for the student athletes in the country that will return to campus, nothing will be taken for granted. Every offseason workout, training camp, practice and game day will carry an innumerable amount of meaning. Team families will grow closer, and players will fight for their positions and work their hardest to represent themselves, their school and their communities.
Dreams will be fulfilled, rivalries strengthened, championships chased and memories made.
There is so much that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken from the sports world, and what has been described only scrapes the surface. However, in due time, this too shall pass, and when it does, we will be greater because of it. So too will our sports.
When sports return after COVID-19, it will be one of the greatest spectacles ever. It will be the second Mike Piazza moment. We will know that we have beaten the coronavirus and that the country’s pride and toughness have prevailed. Our coming together for a bigger purpose will allow us to come together again for one of our favorite pastimes. Lastly, we will be left with a reminder that can carry onto the field of play: anything is possible.
When sports return after COVID-19, you will not just feel it. You will know it.