Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Shock of a World Without Sports


It's amazing to realize that we didn't know what we had until it was gone:
The basic stuff of the sports section is in lockdown. The leagues and schools have stopped the play of game until it’s safe to come out again.
So what are those prodigiously talented and productive journalists who cover sports to do?
I began to ask myself that question after reading a fascinating email that someone forwarded from a listserv. The author, a Seattle architect named George Ostrow, gave me permission to reprint it:
A quarter or more of US newspaper pages and news broadcast minutes is devoted to sports coverage every day. The abrupt cancellation of professional and college sports over coronavirus concerns leaves a journalism vacuum. Player and fan reactions to the cancellations can fill a few days. But then what do you do when your subject matter disappears?
My earnest suggestion is to cover the many other competitions that Americans struggle with in obscurity. The homeless camp that survives the winter. The poor family who manages to put food on the table. The pastor who counsels addicts. The nonprofit that is turning life around for victims of domestic violence.
These stories and more are real contests that our fellow citizens engage in daily. They matter more than millionaires chasing balls. News readers and viewers could follow their successes and near misses just as they would those of their favorite quarterback. Cities could root for their local governments to build more housing than their rival city.
I have the great fortune of being able to do this on a barely even part-time basis. I'm lucky if I can come up with five posts in a month, which shows you what a well-tuned engine of a blog looks like. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for the people who have dedicated their lives to writing about and thinking about sports so that they talk about it effectively in front of other people.

This is a time of upheaval, and I don't think we know what the new normal will look like when we get to the other side. The frivolous things in life aren't so silly anymore. The loss of a season of basketball, baseball and hockey is bad enough. The fact that all of those leagues and more--the minor leagues, the development leagues, the colleges and high schools that see vast engagement in sports for men and women--are shut down and have to be asterisked or put on hold should tell you how serious things are.

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