That question is probably on the minds of lots of sports fans. Taken from afar, it might make us sound shallow. Superficial. As if all we want is people to dance across our television screens to entertain us. To forge and reinforce our tribal allegiances for us couch potatoes.
But like most scratches of the surface, that one only goes skin deep.
Because I think what most sports fans want to know is the same thing that most people want to know.
When will our lives come back?
That is the real question we are all asking ourselves. Sports is but one facet, a reflection of our usual lives. Of all that we cherish.
I like to think that what most of us want is a return to normalcy. One in which our kids go to school. In which we have the freedom to go out to bars and restaurants. Movie theaters. Museums. And, yes, one in which people can safely gather to play competitive sports.
We’ve scratched away so many layers of things we’ve taken for granted for our entire lives that it feels like we are constantly reassessing all that we thought to be true. We may never look at a handshake, fist bump or hug the same way again.
Before athletes can get sweaty on a basketball court or congregate around a football on a practice field, those same people need to be able to leave their homes. To know that their grandmothers are safe. Right now, we can’t honestly say that. Athletes and coaches, like the rest of us, are under quarantine and waiting for their lives to begin again.
But what will it take for us to get there?
Medically speaking, it would need to be a big decline in the number of Covid-19 cases, coupled with some reliable treatment for those that continue to contract it. Our hospitals will need to not be overwhelmed. Our medical professionals will be able to feel safe doing their jobs, without risking becoming sick themselves.
In practical terms, it would look like us returning to work, to our livelihoods. Our children returning to school. The possibility of congregating in groups larger than two for some common purpose. Hell, just take a minute to consider the previous sentence.
We are in truly unprecedented times. We don’t just need to sit this out for a month, maybe two, and then just assume that everything will return to normal.
We may be dealing with this crisis for some time. And for that reason, there’s no point in rushing back into any of our regular endeavors, sports or otherwise, until we know that this contagion will not just continue to spread once again.
Because if we rush back to our normal practices too soon, we could be dealing with this same mess six months from now. That’s the truly disconcerting thing. Until they can come up with a vaccine similar to the flu shot many people get every year, we may have to continue to face this nightmarish virus for an extended period of a year or more, which is typically how long it takes for clinical trials to produce a vaccine.
In many ways, our lives, and those of our favorite athletes, are already changed so irrevocably that it likely won’t be so much of a return as it will be a transition into some new normal.
Will players hug and touch each other so freely again as they have in the past?
We would all like to think so. But that still seems far off from where we are presently. It may be that it takes a long time for us to feel comfortable with close contact with others.
Once our society restarts, then formal training and practices can resume for the teams we love so much. Once teams can practice without getting one another sick, then leagues can schedule games and seasons and postseasons.
So, if you’re a fan waiting for the return of sports, realize what you are really yearning for. And if you’re not a fan, and you think that us fans are superficial or selfish, realize that we all want the same things, even if we may go about communicating it in different ways.