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Column: A week without sports

What’s everyone been up to?

Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Alright, my last column was way too depressing. There’s been a lot of Netflix and a lot of cuddles from my doggo and occasionally from the cat since then. But alas, here we are, more than a week removed from sports and with a choice and an opportunity:

  1. The choice: Accept the depression and learn something about ourselves
  2. The opportunity: Find a way to grow from this experience

Melodramatic, you say? Maybe. But as I mentioned in that last, depressing column, sports have always been the great unifier. I’d been looking forward to hanging out with friends throughout March Madness, participating in the office pool and cheering the merits of 16-seeds in their almost always futile attempts to overcome the one-seed. This time of year is the one where even people who don’t like sports get to participate, picking their brackets based on mascots or colors or where a friend-of-a-friend went to undergrad.

Which brings me to the first point. Sports clearly have a hold on me (and probably you, if you’re reading this post). What void now exists in your life in the absence of athletic competition?

Is it social? Are sports a way for you to connect with others, to find new friends in a new city or to provide a fun excuse to hang out? Are they a commonality that gives you a topic for water cooler chat with that coworker you know nothing else (and don’t care to learn anything else) about?

Sports in my world have always been a social endeavor. The first time my husband and I hung out (as friends) was when we talked about the Iowa-Ohio State game in 2009 together after an Air Force Academy football game. Also our wedding colors were scarlet and grey.

Is it inspirational? Do you feel emotionally overcome when you see the grit and heart and spirit with which athletes take the court or the field? Does it make you want to be a better person when you go into your desk job?

Sure, I played club lacrosse all through college, and I run road races now, but I’ve never been an elite athlete. But it sure is cool to watch those who are on TV. And what it took to get there — stories of overcoming adversity and achieving greatness. Yeah, I’ve cried during a fair few football games in my day.

Or is it something to fill the void? For those cold, middle of the week nights in the dead of winter, is turning on a basketball game the more interesting equivalent of staring at a wall for a few minutes while you decompress from a long day?

Obviously. When there’s nothing else to do, I can’t count how many times I’ve turned on a game with teams I don’t even care about just to have some background noise. Is NC Central vs. Morgan State basketball better than watching season three of The Office for the baker’s dozenth time? Maybe not that one, but you get the point.

All these reasons are valid, and you probably have even more that these three points don’t cover. But whatever your reason for engaging in sports is, embrace that part about you and understand the need on a deeper level. And now, we’ve completed step one.

Step two, from above, is finding a way to grow from this experience. In the short term, that might mean finding a replacement for your lost sports. That gets harder considering a good portion of us (hey, Ohio and Illinois) are quarantined in our homes. I ran into my neighbor today while taking our doggo out, and he made the comment that this experience in isolation wouldn’t be nearly so bad if we at least had sports. “I’d literally watch every baseball game I could,” he said. For once, as someone who normally abhors sitting through baseball — especially on TV — I could sympathize.

So we’ve landed in a catch-22: We are alone because of COVID and want sports, but we can’t have sports because of COVID. Brutal.

However, we can find opportunities here. As Albus Dumbledore said in the movie version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Yes, as an extrovert in isolation for the past week, it’s been rough. But there are things that are good, dare I say, because of this situation:

  • My dog LOVES me, if possible, even more. And she’s been getting long walks every day. (My cat might not be so thrilled.)
  • On said walks, everyone has been a little friendlier. Dog parents who would normally move straight on past let their pups linger, and the greetings of “good morning,” and “have a nice day,” sound more sincere.
  • I get to see what my husband is like at work. Which is...weird, but also kind of fun for now.
  • In the past week, I’ve had around a dozen virtual happy hours, virtual brunches, virtual coffee dates and virtual lunches with friends I can’t see in person right now. Some of these folks are people, in the words of Kevin McCallister, whom I have forgotten to remember. Reconnecting with these people has been a phenomenal experience, and Saturday, I spent the hours of 4:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Google Hangouts with three different groups of people.

You might notice that several of the above points take time — going for long walks, spending hours chatting with folks — which brings me to the final benefit. Our lives are so busy, and we all seem to constantly be on the go. Suddenly, we have so much extra time in the day. We have minutes to hours back from not needing to commute to the office. We can’t run errands the way we normally would. We can’t go out at night.

We could think of these limitations as just that, or we could think of the time saved as an opportunity to slow down. I’m normally an early riser, and try to be up and at ‘em by 4:30 or 5 a.m. every day. But now, I have time to slow down, to give myself back the rest I’ve been giving up the last decade. My husband and I can see each other now during the week, when previously things have been so chaotic that we often seemed to pass like ships in the night. And yes, I can chat as long as I want with friends and take as long of walks as Ruthie wants.

Does all this framing make me feel better about missing sports?

Really, no. But maybe it will soon.

Bye for now.