It seems like a decision is looming on whether or not to play college football, my personal favorite sport, this season as the coronavirus remains with us.
There are all kinds of important matters hinging on whatever colleges and universities decide. There’s billions of dollars in revenue on the line, competing against concerns for player and fan safety — now and in the future, because COVID-19 can carry continuing health problems for those who survive it.
But my everyday concerns about the whole issue are much more petty. I’d miss the excitement and buildup as my alma mater, Purdue, eyes returning to national prominence in the sport. I wouldn’t miss the now-yearly agony of having such hopes crushed by week three, and further stomped on for good measure throughout the rest of the season. I wouldn’t miss having the moods of a good deal of my friends and colleagues determined by how well West Virginia University or Marshall are doing.
I missed not having the NCAA basketball tournament and the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs. I didn’t miss (likely) having two teams I don’t care about playing for either title, but I would’ve watched it. I miss the riot of sound and color of English soccer, and not just the Premier League. I know they’re playing now, but empty stadiums with crowd noise pumped in for the broadcast audience is strange, and I still wonder if it’s all that safe for the players.
I could never see another NBA game for the rest of my life and I’d be fine. I’ve got nothing against it. It just doesn’t do anything for me. In fact, I’ve tried on multiple occasions to get into it, but I just couldn’t. If you love the NBA, don’t bother getting upset — there are a lot of things wrong with me, and I’m sure this is just another one of them.
The NFL is pretty great. I’d miss not having that around.
What I really miss, though, is baseball. And I know Major League Baseball is opening its shortened season without fans today, but, to state something entirely obvious, baseball is best enjoyed in person.
One of the great things about living in Charleston is that you can pop down to Appalachian Power Park and watch a minor league game, which still delivers a great, in-person baseball experience, whenever you want during the season. Or, well, you could. The minor league season has been canceled because of the virus, and who knows if the West Virginia Power — one of many farm teams MLB is considering cutting loose — will return when this is all over.
What’s especially heartbreaking is that my son is at an age where he is starting to enjoy going to games and learning about the teams and, to some extent, their history. Watching Ozzie Smith highlight compilations on YouTube is fine, but it’s not a game. The basement certainly isn’t Busch Stadium, or Great American Ballpark or PNC Park. And the hotdogs and beer don’t taste nearly as good when they come from your own fridge. There’s a zen quality to the ballpark experience that simply can’t be replicated on a screen. High-definition televisions are great, but no one needs to see that many people spitting and adjusting their crotches in 4K Ultra HD.
One important thing, aside from money or other weightier concerns, is the release valve sports provide us. Sure, we can get madder at an umpire than any politician, but there’s always another game or another sport on another night.
Sports have gotten more political recently (hard to separate the two when, say, the president of the United States is feuding on Twitter with the captain of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team during the World Cup), but I’ll take them with all of their impurities.
I’ve learned I can live without sports — for a time, anyway. However, while life devoid of athletic drama is not as gut-wrenching or, in some ways, stressful, I think I’d still rather have sports around — when it’s safe for everyone.