Column: I’m lucky sports are the worst thing I lost during the pandemic

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Photo: Courtesy of Joseph DuBois

Joey DuBois (right) at a Red Sox game prior to the pandemic.

By Joey DuBois, Deputy Sports Editor

Sports mean a variety of things to different people. While they may be trivial compared to the more serious aspects of life that are negatively affected by the pandemic—such as surging unemployment rates—sports still play an integral role in our society and in my life.

COVID-19 became real to me on March 11, 2020. It wasn’t when Tom Hanks announced he tested positive, or when we heard about our country’s mishandling of the virus from Dr. Anthony Fauci, or even when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic

For me and sports fans everywhere, COVID-19 became real when the National Basketball Association suspended its season.

Before that, I saw a mini-vacation forming before my very eyes, and at what better timing? March Madness was about to begin, and I got a free week off of classes to sit around and watch every game. 

However, when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus after the team practiced in Emerson’s Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym just a couple days earlier, I realized the significance of what was about to happen.

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Professional sports leagues played through natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and even world wars. Yet, the coronavirus was the first thing to put a stop to sports right away.

The timing could not have been worse. I left campus in a hurry, bound for an indefinite quarantine in my childhood home of Uxbridge, Massachusetts. The worst part, though, was I couldn’t look forward to the Boston Celtics’ game that night. Or the night after that. Or, seemingly, for an eternity. 

Sports have always been my escape from reality. Last spring, reality was as undesirable as ever, and my escape vanished. 

Sports bring my family and me together like few other things. Whether it’s watching a game live or the (often) friendly debates afterward, it’s our go-to topic when a conversation dies down. Now, these conversations shifted to the surging numbers of cases and deaths, and who in our personal lives tested positive that day. 

The quarantine boredom crept in and no amount of Netflix or PlayStation 4 games could make it go away. Usually in times like these, I turned to sports, but it wasn’t always just to watch them. As a sports journalist, sports represent my creative outlet—they allow me to share my hot takes with those outside of my friends and family.

Without sports, there was nothing new to cover. I was unable to even sit in front of a keyboard to write or a microphone to record a podcast. I was lost without sports, both as a fan and a member of the media. 

My boredom was relieved when sports, specifically the NBA, returned in late July. However, many raised important questions about sports returning. 

How did leagues gain access to enough COVID tests to test each player and coach every single day when average Americans were, and still are, unable to easily access tests? 

Or, following the protests of the summer, why are these athletes dedicating their time to a game rather than advocating for social justice in light of George Floyd’s killing and the nationwide reckoning with police brutality it set off?

And, most importantly, why should anyone care about sports in the wake of so much tragedy?

When considering these questions and many more, I found myself questioning my own desires. Why did I care so much?

Sports were a beacon of hope for me in my darkest days. I never found concrete answers to any of the questions posed above. All I knew was that watching my favorite sports provided some sense of normalcy—something I and millions of other sports fans desperately needed.

Compared to many of my peers, the pandemic has taken it easy on me and my loved ones. Outside of the dullness we all endured, I’m lucky enough to have not lost anyone I love to this terrible virus. Perhaps that is why the loss of sports jumps out at me when reflecting on this past year. 

It would be irresponsible and ignorant for me to act as though the pandemic hit me the hardest just because I love sports. In reality, I know the loss of sports for a couple of months is not comparable to the suffering so many have endured due to the pandemic. Still, I know that the loss of the sports and the alienation I felt was real. The difference is, I knew it would be back.

Most professional stadiums are now allowing at least a few fans into games. Professional seasons are all back on schedule and championships are being crowned once again. It’s not quite back to normal yet, but normalcy is undoubtedly on the horizon. 

The pandemic taught me that sports mean even more to me than I thought, but it also showed me how fortunate I am that sports were my main concern. 

As we slowly inch towards regularity, I think of those who dealt with far worse than me. I wonder what their escape is. If they’re not sure, I hope they’re able to find it. 

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