What we’ve learned from sports in times like these

A sports reporter's viewpoint on how sports can heal us.

Eagle+Stadium

Eagle Stadium

Eli Dean, Reporter

   The NBA was first. Then came the NCCA. Baseball. Soccer. Hockey. NASCAR. Golf. The Olympics. UFC. All of it. In a strange period starting on a Wednesday night in Oklahoma City in March, sports shut down completely. The culprit? Something called COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus. 

   On March 12, the last day Nixa Public Schools were open, I remember hearing a conversation on my bus about the coronavirus. Once the NBA shut down, we all realized this was worse than we thought.

   In P.E. that same day, our teacher told us that once we got back from break, our class would be outside almost every day for the rest of the year. A senior then chuckled and said, “If we come back.” One of my teachers even took a vote on if we’d be back or not. The room was split right down the middle. 

   I doubt any of us realized it, but for the first time in our lifetimes, and probably the only time in our lifetimes, the world was being put on a standstill. Did that senior know at that exact moment that that was his last day of high school? Did people walking out of NHS know that was the last time until August? Do any of us know now if we’ll be back in school by August? I’m privileged to have three great years at Nixa ahead of me, but to many, this loss of high school is truly devastating.   

   Every day, opportunities are lost. Today, on April 17, the weather was great, which meant that my P.E. class would have been outside. Would someone have discovered a new hobby out on the field? Would someone today make a new friend? Would I gain anything from today if a pandemic wasn’t surrounding us all? These questions will never truly be answered, but each and every day make me think “What did we miss?” 

   This brings me back to sports. How many home runs would have been hit? Who would have won the Masters last week? Would Dayton actually have had a shot to win March Madness? A friend of mine had tickets to an XFL game and we were going to head to St. Louis during spring break to watch the Battlehawks. Now, the XFL has declared bankruptcy during this crisis. Could the XFL have made it if not for coronavirus? There are so many questions in sports that we wish we could answer, but right now, it seems as though it’s going to be a long time until they’re answered at the fullest, and sadly, some are never going to be answered.

   Today, the headlines on ESPN were the exact same throughout the day. Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly broke a window trying to throw a changeup. NASCAR star Kyle Larson said the n-word while in a virtual race. He quickly apologized, but was fired by NASCAR the next day. Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott supposably threw a party with around 30 people at his house. Prescott says that it was a dinner with less than 10 people there, and repeatedly claimed that he was not breaking any social distancing guidelines. For the first time ever, the Women’s National Basketball Association took center stage in the sports landscape and held their draft, but it shouldn’t be because of a pandemic that we should be having a serious conversation about the WNBA. To avid sports fans like myself, sports is a way of life. 

   During WWll and the Korean War, many Major League Baseball players were drafted. One of  the biggest names in all of sports, Ted Williams, and many others were sent to war. But people lined up to take over, and thus baseball was saved and games were played. There’s only been twice in 117 years that there hasn’t been a World Series, one because a team refused to play, and another due to a players strike in the mid 1990s. But there was still baseball, and in the case of 1994, the Montreal Expos franchise was on the line. They were the best team in baseball at the time the remainder of the season was cancelled, with a record of 74-40. Soon after, the Expos fell apart, losing stars in free agency and sooner than it felt, they packed their bags and left for Washington. Now the Nationals, they are baseball’s defending champions, having won their first championship in 2019, but for how long will they defend their championship, and when and where will they do it? Arizona? Florida? In a way, sports may never be the same again. Ted Williams lost a year to put up bigger statistics for the Red Sox, will Mike Trout lose a whole year of the prime of his career because of the coronavirus? Has he lost already? 

   A couple of weeks back when President Donald Trump went on a conference call with all of the NFL owners, he promised them that they would have fans in their stands whenever football starts back up again. Now, Dr. Anthony Fauci, which many claim as the “voice of reason” in the White House, has said that sports should only resume if there are no fans present at games. Many want sports to come back so that they can cheer their teams on, but how many of them will come back anytime soon? Storylines from the LeBron vs. Kawhi to Mookie the Dodger could disappear before our very eyes, and for now, all sports fans have the same thought on their minds: Will it ever come back? And if sports has taught us one thing in the past, even through dark times like these, sports has carried on when the rest of the world stopped. However for the first time ever, the sports world has finally stopped with the rest of the world. One of the greatest moments ever in sports was when Mike Piazza of the New York Mets hit a two-run homerun in New York City with the Mets down by a run in the bottom of the 8th inning just days after 9/11. And with one crack of the back, little by little, American sports fans got a bit of their mojo back. 

   ESPN, in an effort to give sports fans something to talk about, has broadcast an NBA HORSE Tournament, a NBA2k20 players tournament, and is now beginning to replay games of years past from various sports. One of those was the Mike Piazza game. At the moment, all we can do is look back and smile, remembering how we all felt when sports gave us emotions of hope and sadness. 

   It is said that sports is the only thing that brings the world together, but in these times–in which we are anything but together–it’s important to note that when the world comes back to some form of what used to be considered normal, sports will be waiting patiently, and it will only come back when we as a nation and the world as a whole is ready for sports to open their gates once again. In the meantime, when the world is at its lowest, we know that sports will come back just as strong if not stronger than it left on a Wednesday in March. That’s the way it has always been, and 2020 will be no different.