Sports isn’t just a diversion for Americans. It’s a connection. It binds us as lovers of the double steal, the buzzer-beating three-pointer, the slap shot off the crossbar and into the back of the net. Yes, an evening of sports serves as salve for a troubling day at work, a bout of boredom or a breakup. But it also binds us with a sense of community. Sports are personal.
That’s why the shutdowns that have broadsided America amid the coronavirus crisis, the stoppage of so many sports and sporting events at all levels — pro, college and high school — has been especially jarring. What do we do now, especially with kids out of school?
The paradox of this latest turn of events is plain: As the country reels psychologically and economically from this galloping pandemic, a towering two-run homer from Anthony Rizzo or a Patrick Kane hat trick could take us a way, if for a moment, from plummeting stock markets and the rising tide of cases.
But allowing large crowds to congregate will only make this crisis worse, and large crowds go hand in hand with major sporting events.
For now, the charge inside a stadium of cheering spectators — or watching from a comfy couch your beloved teams and athletes — will have to take a back seat to a priority much bigger than grand slams and game-winning jump shots. Coronavirus poses one of the most alarming health threats this nation has faced in decades. It requires common sense — and sacrifice, even for high school athletes whose schooling and sports programs have been suspended.
It’s the right course to take for the health of the athletes, their parents and siblings, and for coaches and officials overseeing the action.
Sport has helped us through national crises before. Following Pearl Harbor, famed baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis kept baseball going through World War II after President Franklin Roosevelt wrote him in what is now known as the “Green Light Letter.”
“It would be best for the country to keep baseball going,” Roosevelt wrote, adding that Americans “ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.”
This time, the world of sport can help by staying on the sidelines. Consider it a national timeout.