As I write this article, I am reminded of a conversation I once had with my wife. The question that I posed to her was this: “Can you imagine a world without sports?” She laughed and said, “No.”
Well, here we are with the necessary precautions taken throughout the sports world to prevent the threat of the coronavirus, this question became a reality. Beginning with the Ivy League Conference Basketball Tournaments, followed by the postponement of the NBA season, the world of sports quickly began to come to an abrupt halt. Soon, other conferences would follow suit, and ultimately the NCAA, the governing body of intercollegiate athletics, announced the cancellation of sports ultimate prize the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness. Soon Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the PGA Tour, and ultimately Illinois’ beloved IHSA boys’ high school basketball tournaments would be canceled.
While for the most part, everyone agrees that drastic measures needed to be made to combat the spread of this deadly disease. Nevertheless, the cancellation of sports left many to stop and reflect on the importance of sports in our lives. In a world where there has always been division, frequently based on race, sports have ever played a role in social awareness and social change. From Jackie Robinson breaking the baseball color barrier in 1947 to the all-Black starting five of The Texas Western Men’s basketball team, defeating the mighty all white Kentucky Wildcats team in 1966, sports have also played a significant role in history. From John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s raised fist during the 1968 Summer Olympics to the USA Hockey team defeating the Soviet team in 1980 Winter Olympics, to Jessie Owens in the 1936 Olympic games. From Mohammad Ali’s refusal to enter the military draft to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling to the United State’s Women’s National Soccer teams fight for pay equity, sports continue to be a microcosm of society.
And while sports on many occasions have brought attention to social injustices, on most occasions, sports provide pure entertainment. A distraction if you will from the day to day grind of life. From parents and grandparents rooting for kids to the buddy golf trips and pick-up basketball games, sport is a part of everyday life. From fantasy football to the March Madness office pools, sports provides us with a unique form of escapism. When the weight of the evening news becomes depressing, it is sports that provide us with a much-needed respite.
So here we are without sports –– a challenging and frustrating time for many. As the country grapples with the fear of the coronavirus, sports once again reminds us of its importance. Still, sports will be a part of this history, even more so in its absence.