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Life Infringes on Sports

Although the global pandemic began sometime in 2019, events here in the United States have unfolded at a dizzying rate.  A booming economy in January and February has collapsed,  phrases like “flatten out the curve” and”social distancing” are in the national conversation for the very first time, and all of our beloved spring sports canceled. In the month of March, the constant escalating bad news came in slow motion fashion like a bad skid on a wet road. 

In my life there have been just a few events that seemed so earth-shattering that the air is sucked out of the room, there is no apparent way forward,  panic and fear strikes and the main thought is “are we gonna be ok?” Unfortunately in the 60’s three of those moments involved assassinations. And that’s only because I was too young to go to Vietnam,  where every day was earth-shattering. I can remember and maybe go point out the exact spot in my school playground where I was at in 1963 when JFK was shot. I was seven years old.  Everyone was crying. They sent us home,  I’d never seen my mom cry like that,  we watched Walter Cronkite together. I knew things in our country would never be the same. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King’s shootings gave our country the same horrible jolt. 9/11 stands out in the same way, a moment of horror that will never be forgotten.  In many ways, our nation has never recovered from that day. Those were all quick stabs with a knife. This month has been a slow descent into the unknown where the outcomes of everybody I know is up for question and I contemplate a worst-case scenario where I’m lying on a cot somewhere,  wrapped in some medical plastic like a big Hot Pocket, struggling to breathe. 

Compared to the above,  I can’t be too concerned about the games. If you understand the flattening of the curve,  it’s all about letting the virus run its course slowly,  so our health care system doesn’t get too overwhelmed where it would start affecting outcomes. If games were allowed to go on with fans, as the virus is free to exponentially infect, there could ultimately be thousands or tens of thousands of cases which would throw us into an unimaginable panic with our military holding down the last fabric of civilization.No thank you.

  I’m 63 with diabetes and a genetic neuromuscular disease called Charcotte-Marie-Tooth type 2, named after the doctors who discovered it. It’s like MS, maybe not quite as serious. There’s a big bullseye on my back with this virus. By staying at home for a couple of months I increase my odds of staying well. But stay tuned.  We are still in the early innings of this battle. A sudden mutation,  a shift in virulence or its ease of transmission could turn 2020 into the worst year of my life,  maybe the last year of my life. 

In this country, we always battle and we always bounce back. We will again this year. Certain politicians unsuccessfully running for office spend their entire time talking about how bad America is. I would prefer to think about why our country is great. The many caregivers, the thousands of volunteers who give instead of take, and the thousands more who are working tirelessly in labs all over the world looking for answers.

Most athletes have been donating to local charities. As have most companies,  even those ‘hated corporations’ that employ millions and contribute a huge part to our GNP. In the past two weeks, our private sector has really stepped up, which is what Americans expect. 

Since this is an election year, there may not much coming together of the country. There were a lot of false and unseemly comments made even today on the Sunday talk shows made by people apparently unaware of how small and sick it makes them look.  To his credit, Joe Biden put the brakes on a bizarre, hypocritical, sick line of questioning by Chuck Todd. I wonder if these people are rooting for our country ‘s triumph, or downfall for political gain. That’s also a first in my lifetime.

So where do sports fit in?

There’s plenty of sports talk on radio and TV, most of it revolves around the NFL. Free agency,  the draft, highlights of games and entire games.  As I write this I’m watching the greatest 100 game changers on the NFL channel. Down to top five – Halas, Walsh, Al Davis, Pete Rozzelle, Paul Brown. No argument from me. Especially since they placed Paul Brown number one of the greatest coaches too. We really had a legend right here in Cincinnati. Nobody created more innovations during his time as coach. You have to argue where Belichek is going to wind up. I’m not sure he had the impact on the game of the early founders, or the iconic names that grew the game into the behemoth it is, but he’s destined to be right at the top of the greatest coaches of all time. You’re splitting hairs at that point, as that kind of greatness can’t really be measured but the debate is enjoyable. Major League Baseball is taking the biggest hit from Covid-19. Just as the excitement for the season was hitting its peak, the 2020 campaign screeched to a halt.  Right now MLB doesn’t seem to be grabbing the same attention as the NFL. There’s still hope there will be an NFL season.  Beyond that, for years now the NFL juggernaut has excelled at extending it’s off-season activities and staying in the spotlight. The events of this year will elevate the NFL even further ahead of their competition, the implications for MLB’s health are significant. Maybe the only ones happy right now are the Houston Astros. 

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