Eckl: Are we sure we need sports right now?

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Two-plus months without sports or anything closely resembling normal, everyday activities has been strange – to say the least.

There have been over 100,000 deaths in the United States due to COVID-19 and more are inevitable as the country reopens.

Without careening too far down that rabbit hole yet, the last nine weeks or so without any sports competition has been one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had.

I’ve been covering high school sports since I was 17, so for nearly the last decade my life has revolved around watching, covering, writing and immersing myself in those stories.

At no point did I ever consider the thought of sports, as we knew it, disappearing entirely.

Sure, I’d seen games without fans due to extenuating circumstances, but not in my wildest dreams did I envision a scenario in which every sport hit the pause button at the same time.

Sports have always been a massive part of my life – between writing about them for a living, following them on television since I can remember and conversing about the continuous rumor mills that always surround athletics.

In such a strange time to be alive, I’ve come to realize two things. Sports are a necessary fabric for a fully functioning society and yet feel almost entirely inconsequential when massive disaster strikes.

Hear me out.

Competition is an avenue for escapism; it brings people together from far and wide.

Any true sports fan will be able to recite the exact feelings of joy their team brought them from the biggest thrills of their lives.

Those same fans know the heartbreak that comes with personal investment into a losing franchise.

There’s nothing comparable to the joy of being to celebrate the best moments with others.

Yet, when a pandemic eliminates the ability to bring people together, what do we do with that extra time?

There’s not a shred of doubt in my mind that my life would be completely unrecognizable without sports.

Everyday people, including myself, find strength through the stories of those professional athletes, collegiate athletes or high school competitors.

Athletes of celebrity use their status and public standing for good all the time, allowing sports to provide plenty to the world.

I think the ability to escape mentally, for a few minutes or a couple hours, isn’t discussed enough when you think about all the stressors of the world.

However, is the escape for you and I really worth the risk of disease and death for someone else? Someone, who in all likelihood isn’t going to get paid at all, or be asked to take a significant pay cut. Major League Baseball has been offering players anywhere between a 50 to 70 percent pay cut to play a shortened season this year. Should these players were asking to risk their lives assume that risk for less pay?

Even without sports for over the last two months, citizens are still being murdered in the street without justice. Dams are flooding communities due to negligence and massive wildfires are destroying large parts portions of states and countries across the planet.

There are so many other major issues that need attention.

Along with the obvious dangers of a pandemic and an average of 20,000 new cases per week – per the CDC – are we sure we need sports back right now?

As professional sports leagues decide whether to reopen, doesn’t it do a lot less harm to wait a little while longer?

Are we sure our time isn’t better off being devoted elsewhere?

Why, when we need a healthy escape so badly, do sports feel so inconsequential?


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