DAN BICKLEY

Coronavirus concerns latest example of sports world being disrupted

Mar 12, 2020, 7:14 PM | Updated: Mar 13, 2020, 2:56 pm
A lingering fan sits behind home plate after a spring training baseball game between the New York Y...
A lingering fan sits behind home plate after a spring training baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals, Thursday, March 12, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The human experience can be terrifying. Unlike the Astros’ hitters, you don’t always know what’s coming.

Three times in the past 20 years, our way of life has been disrupted. Three times, we’ve been jarred out of our comfort zones.

It happened post-9/11. It happened during the Great Recession. It’s happening now.

And guess what? It’ll happen again.

My father lived through the Great Depression, during which he and a friend looted an egg truck parked in the alley. The driver left his cargo unattended while attending to personal business. They emptied the truck of its valuables, giving a dozen eggs to every hungry resident in their tenement.

With a nod to the recently-fallen NCAA Tournament, it was one of my father’s shining moments.

I’ve met people who survived the Holocaust. You know people who fought in World War II, Korea or Vietnam. We celebrate them because they lived through purgatory. Because stuff happens on this planet, and it’s not always pretty. Live long enough and you learn that safety is only an illusion, like the guard gate outside your neighborhood.

Clearly, we are not immune.

We will learn much in the coming weeks that will help us in the years ahead. We will see real leaders emerge. I’m guessing it won’t be the NCAA.

The NFL could emerge as a diversionary hero, running on schedule like the train in “The Polar Express.” The NFL could announce free-agent signings via Skype starting next week. The league could present an old-school draft with 32 general managers making their selections via conference call. Rosters can be repopulated without anyone sharing germs or leaving team headquarters.

In the process, the NFL can give us normalcy and excitement. It could give us something to talk about during the great void ahead.

If the PGA Tour remains open for business, we could also see Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson win the Masters. But it would happen in suffocating silence. Without a single roar from the gallery, the kind that make Augusta National famous. So quiet that you could hear the flatulence. That would be awful.

Me? I’m going to do something different in my time away from the grid. I’m going to buy a video game for the first time in years. Probably baseball, maybe football or tennis. I’m going to have my own sports adventure. I’ll become the star in my own social-distancing universe.

Better yet, the hope is this pandemic goes away within two months. Then we will feel a sense of huge relief when the games return, like narrowly avoiding an accident on the freeway. We will be proud of our actions, for embracing and accepting the cancellations/postponements that have interrupted our hugely-important fantasy world of sports.

Either way, we will change. We grew patriotic in the wake of 9/11, placing renewed importance on the national anthem. The Great Recession was monstrously hard on the workforce, making millions reinvent themselves and master new jobs. The coronavirus is different. It’s worldwide and everywhere, in play for everyone. Even Tom Hanks. Thus, you can bet on this:

In the coming weeks, we will come together as global citizens. As clichéd as those seven words appear on the screen, it’s actually true. And we really need it. Governments must care for employers and employers must care for their workers and the workers must care for the poor.

We must safeguard the elderly and those truly vulnerable. We must promise to wash our hands and not touch our faces. Unlike some Division I basketball coaches, we must vow to not go to work if we’re sick. We all must care for each other, as it should always be.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not ready. Fear sharpens the mind. It cleans out the gutters. It makes us realize we really are in this together and that no one is really better than anyone else. Which is in stark contrast to the lessons emerging from the most prosperous of times.

So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

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