Picture this: The squeak of basketball shoes, the sweat dripping from LeBron James brow, the whistle from the referee, and that’s it.
It would take some getting used to and, for me, and I don’t want us to try.
As we start to ponder what could potentially come from a truly extended shutdown of sports, we start to brainstorm our alternatives. One of those, holding events without a crowd. That sounds like an OK idea now, but would we really want to see a game played where there were no fans?
When I asked myself this question for the first time, I thought, “Sure, I want whatever sports I can get.” Now, however, three weeks have gone by since the NBA shut it down, and it starts to haunt me. This idea of playing pro sports many months down the road with no people to watch them live means one thing: The Coronavirus is way worse than we want to think that it is right now.
As an eternal optimist, I’m hopeful the tides turn and COVID-19 fades. I see us facing the problem, coming up with a solution and innovating a vaccine or treatment. But, the medical likelihood of that happening, according to every expert that I can read, says that’s not very likely.
The most likely way we stem the tide of this pandemic is to truly social distance ourselves until such a time that we can find out who has it and who doesn’t. When we know that, we’ll be able to isolate, treat those people and, for the rest of us, life could potentially resume to a “normal” setting.
In my estimation, playing sports under the cloud of what could potentially be the largest loss of life in any single event in U.S. history over the course of the last 100 years, would not fit the mood of the nation at all. If we were truly devastated economically and spiritually in a way that is increasingly becoming likely, spectator sports with no spectators wouldn’t just be haunting, it would be ghastly.
As someone who has worked in or around professional sports for the better part of the last 10 years, I, more than anybody, want to see a return to the normalcy, the everyday life, the community and all the fun bread and circus that comes with our sports. But, as a father, a husband and an American, before I’m a sports fan, my hope is that when leagues do decide to come back, all the fans can come back with them.
I don’t want to watch an empty arena of uninspired athletes or an empty stadium where baseball players can be heard chewing gum. I want to be in a place where this country is whole and healthy enough to celebrate the accomplishments of our finest athletes.
When I really stop to think about it, and try to wrap my mind around what it would be like to have to watch athletes toil for television cameras, with no live audience to share in the inspiration of their endeavors, the absurdity of it wrecks me. We need sports but we need each other to be OK first.