It’s been said that humans are creatures of habit and that we take comfort in familiar patterns.
I’d argue there’s no more familiar pattern than the unending calendar that is American sports.
Winter, spring, summer and fall? To many like me, the real American seasons are basketball/hockey, baseball and football.
Perhaps that’s a reason why the last few weeks have been so jarring — and why the immediate future seems so daunting.
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It’s been nearly a month since the Ohio High School Athletic Association suspended all play. As we are around Easter, we should be moving into the heart of high school baseball, softball, track, boys tennis and lacrosse seasons.
Instead, everyone is in the same position: Stuck inside with no games or organized team activities allowed.
If local athletes are lucky, maybe they can use a home gym, do sprints around the block or play catch with their siblings or parents.
With school facilities and public gyms closed, however, the bottom line is there’s no way to keep in “game shape.”
Following the extension of the stay-at-home order from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, the OHSAA has decreed there will be no contact between players and coaches until May 1.
It doesn’t take a genius to see how thin a thread OHSAA’s spring sports are hanging by. Indiana and Michigan have already canceled their high school spring seasons.
Of course, high school sports is just following a larger trend.
The NCAA canceled its spring season early. The Tokyo Olympics were postponed months in advance.
It also looks like there will be no NBA and NHL playoffs this spring.
Major League Baseball’s opening day is postponed and there’s no word on when — or if — it will occur.
To top it off, ESPN pundit Kirk Herbstreit said he’d be “shocked” if there was college or NFL football this fall.
That scream you hear in the background is the mind of every sports fan yelling “Make it stop!”
It’s not that easy for those of us in sports journalism, either.
I’ve never wanted to stand in 40-degree weather on a soggy field with muddy shoes to watch baseball more in my life.
Of course, all of this is just window dressing in the clutch of a global pandemic.
The daily updates reporting the number of Americans who have been infected and died from coronavirus is sobering, if not downright frightening, especially for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.
To say nothing of the fact more than 10 million Americans have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
And as we’re constantly reminded, we’re still only in the beginning stages of this pandemic.
It’s no wonder people are craving a sense of “normalcy” these days, even if “normal” seems to be well out of reach.
For this country, sports is a big part of normal.
I’ve often heard that America in general — and myself personally — put too much emphasis on sports. There’s some truth to that.
The amount of money spent on equipment, coaches and youth leagues has skyrocketed in the last 20 years. Many parents view athletic scholarships as they only way to pay for college for their children.
The salaries of individual MLB players have always been crazy in my adult life, but the last few years, they’ve reached the ludicrous stage. I know Mike Trout is the best player of his generation and likely a Hall of Famer, but a 12-year, $426.5 million contract? You could have bought most MLB franchises with $426 million when I was in high school.
As with too many things, the more money surrounding an issue, the more importance it’s given.
Closer to home, I’m ashamed to admit the numbers of times my wife has told me, “It’s not all about sports!” She’s right, of course.
The world of sports is meant to be a distraction, same as any other form of entertainment.
But, man alive, we could all use some distraction and entertainment right now.
Another aspect that I will always advocate: In these days when you can get information and entertainment from around the world, sports — especially high school sports — remain one of the few things that can bring a community together.
Most people remember the unmitigated joy that the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA title brought to Northeast Ohio. ESPN and NBAtv are replaying recent NBA Finals, so at least we can all relieve that.
Closer to home, I still love seeing the crowds that gather at Stow-Munroe Falls, Woodridge and Nordonia for football. Groups like the Aurora student section and Tallmadge’s vocal fans prove school spirit in the 21st century is not dead.
I might be a big softy, but I still love seeing moments where after winning a title or hitting a game-winning hit, the first thing a student-athlete upon leaving the field does is hug his or her mom or dad.
I miss it. I miss it all.
Two of the biggest questions going around social media recently are “When will you know when we’re back to normal?” and “What’s the first thing you’ll do when this is over?”
I know exactly when we will be back to normal.
When we start playing sports again, normal will be back — or at least in sight.
What will I do when this is over?
I’m going to go down to MAPRE Stadium and cheer the Columbus Crew.
I’m going to enjoy writing about the next budding star with the Bulldogs, the Knights or the Tigers.
And I’ll probably hug any coach that lets me.
As is so often repeated, we will get through this together.
When It is over, I can’t wait to see those games — and all of you — again.