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Sports' way of marking time has been lost

Douglas Fritz • Mar 24, 2020 at 12:00 PM

Sports, for as long as I can remember, have been a source of fascination for me.

Whether it was baseball — my first favorite — or football, basketball, olympics, tennis, it captured my attention back in the day. I watched on television, listened on the radio, or drank in the stories my dad told me about great moments of the past.

The three biggest parts of my identity as a child were family, church and sports. I put them in that order because that’s how my young mind sorted them. Family made me feel safe, church inspired me to strive toward good behavior, and sports were the activity I enjoyed the most.

Fast forward to March of 2020. Everybody on the planet has been knocked off their feet. The loss of the sporting world seems insignificant when people are fighting for their lives. In that sense, it is. We don’t need sports to survive. How many people wouldn’t immediately agree to give up the next five Super Bowls, if that sacrifice somehow meant shortening the length of the current pandemic?

Sports, however, have an important place in the world. They can help heal a wounded psyche.

But with today’s national health emergency, we don’t know when the next sporting event will be. We don’t know if the NBA will finish its season. We don’t know what kind of year Major League Baseball will have. We don’t even know if high school, college or NFL football will be impacted.

We do know college sports won’t finish their spring seasons. We know high school basketball state tournaments are in serious jeopardy. At the least, we know high school spring sports won’t have a full season.

This is difficult for sports fans because of their mental calendar. Sports not only give us reasons to cheer, they mark time. For example, in the early part of each year it’s the Daytona 500 and the Super Bowl. In the spring, Major League Baseball begins and The Masters golf tournament takes place. In the early summer, the NBA wraps up and the NFL sticks its flag in the ground. Football season explodes onto the scene every August and carries us through to December.

Then it starts again — every year for as long as I have been alive. And even beyond: President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Green Light Letter” on January 15 of 1942 encouraged Major League Baseball to play on during World War II.

One of the interesting things about a mental sports calendar is all fans have a different one. For some, all sports are minor endeavors until UT football begins in September. Some love basketball above others while baseball tugs at the heartstrings of many. For others, it’s world wide soccer, golf, or maybe the Grand Slam tennis events.

Unfortunately, everybody in the world has the same mental sports calendar right now. Yes, the uncanceled events are still listed, but they have an unsightly question mark beside them.

This is, however, an opportunity for sports fans, and it may only come once in our lifetime. There is no call here for a discontinuation of allegiance to favorite teams. Competition, either watching or participating, is one of the sweet things in life.

The key is this: For everything there is a season. There is a time for every purpose. And this time and place is for sports to cease for an undetermined amount of time.

Our lives have not become pointless or meaningless. We simply have been given the chance to put our lives, and sports, in the proper perspective.

We can’t control tomorrow any more than we can dip back into the streams of times past and change their course. And as for today, there are things about life that are purposely beyond our understanding.

But even in what seems like a crush of chaos, there is ultimate order. There always has been, even before the threads of time began. There always will be.

And therein lies peace.

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