But with the end in sight, I’ve never been so happy that the sport calmed down. It turns out that there is such a thing as too much exercise. Well, with that caveat: if they are forced into a pandemic-induced, aseptic state.
As soon as we get past the Masters in a barren form in mid-November, the big sports calendar will look more like itself. The traditional soccer takeover will begin. Soon, basketball and hockey will speed up preparations for their new season, and a normal, steady pace should resume. There will be no US Open tennis in addition to US Open golf, with baseball, soccer, the WNBA and NBA postseason, the Stanley Cup playoffs, the start of the NFL season, and college football losing its position has fought. There won’t be a way to squeeze the Kentucky Derby until early September or get the Indy 500 up and running in late August. The avalanche of catch-up championships and non-synchronous tournaments will stop.
It is a good time to relax. Or do you get annoyed about whether your favorite group on the grate can mitigate the spread of covid-19. Or just take a look at the games here and there and remain unsure about sports – desperate and out of rhythm – while life is so intense and urgent.
The problem isn’t that the games and storylines weren’t interesting. Two well-known Los Angeles brands, the Lakers and the Dodgers, have just won championships in 17 days. Soccer teams score like crazy. Rafael Nadal recently won the French Open against rival Novak Djokovic and linked Roger Federer with 20 individual Grand Slam titles. Some of the other notable superstars who shone during this period: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Naomi Osaka, Mookie Betts, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Russell Wilson, and Tom Brady. But her moments, while sometimes spectacular, were not fascinating.
If TV reviews are your thing, paint a picture of the fight. The World Series set a new low for the audience. The NBA finals crashed in a similar fashion. The biggest sports leagues rarely have to worry about their audiences, but they are all worried in 2020. The games are not okay, as are the fans. The competition for attention in sport and in society was also an issue.
Above all, however, the last few months have revealed a truth that contradicts the puristic view of sport: the competition is not enough. People miss the atmosphere, the connection and the grandeur. Sport has an energy and a shared joy that cannot be imagined. There is a ceremony for the sport, something that many die-hard people have long ridiculed and wished they had been minimized. But it’s important. It makes the mood richer. And it cannot be replaced during a pandemic.
There were last-second-shots and walk-off exploits that lead to isolated celebrations in places without a fan. Observing this from a distance is like looking at a snow globe. It’s cool to see, but it won’t make you run out of the house to dance with a neighbor – from six feet away, of course.
Despite some thrills, a sense of emptiness weighs on the experience. It’s not the sport’s fault; The game presentation was good under the circumstances. However, it is evidence of their limitations. This year is immune to distraction, no matter how much we need it. A spate of sports cannot drown out the fear of an overwhelming combination of stresses: pandemic, racial bill, and economic disaster during an election year.
After a difficult start to the shortened 60-game season, Major League Baseball stayed 59 days without a positive coronavirus test. Then Turner had to be drawn before the eighth inning of the final game of the season on Tuesday night, but refused to stay away from Los Angeles after the win and none of his teammates seemed to care about his recklessness.
In the end, baseball kept its season together for as long as possible. There wasn’t a day left. If the Tampa Bay Rays had won the World Series and expanded it to Game 7, that important game might have been delayed.
This is sport in 2020, and many of these issues will persist through 2021. The challenge of keeping to the schedule will be extremely difficult, but the commissioners and teams will have to try. I thought the disruption might create an opportunity to revise the sports calendar for the better. I was wrong. It’s thoughtful, almost flawlessly constructed as it is. There is room for tweaking, but an overhaul would be a mistake. The value of good stimulation has become clear.
I’m curious to see if the reaction to this compressed calendar would be different if sport were still sport: full of fans, lively, able to entertain a quieter world. But no, let’s not try this experiment again.
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