Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sport in the time of the Coronavirus

Like many people, I find this whole coronavirus situation disquieting. I am not worried about being sick although there is a statistical possibility that it may happen. Instead, I find it strangely upsetting that my whole world is turning upside down. The certainties of life are no longer automatic, rendering any planning for the foreseeable future impossible. I find it so disconcerting that I do not want to watch the news or talk about “it”. On the other hand, “it” is a rather difficult to ignore when it starts creating barriers to human interaction and interferes with making a living.  Instead, the only issue of the virus that I can talk or write about directly is a marginal aspect, relatively speaking, specifically because it is less obtrusive. Specifically, I keep on thinking about suspension of major sports worldwide, including the FIFA, NBA and MLB. Instead of crying about it, I like to consider some admittedly questionable options to provide people with safe options for vicarious living.

For example, worldwide, many people escape their hot, cramped flats and go to sports bars to watch life action or turn on one of the ESPN channels.  What do these bars and channels have to offer now? Video of last year’s World Series or Classico? Honestly, how interesting is the Rose Bowl game of 2002?  On the other hand, using cable access to news programs worldwide, people can keep track of the number of new cases or latest measures by this government or another.  As there is constant action and news, it would certainly be entertaining and even provide a basis for betting, the ideal way of forgetting your troubles.

Speaking of betting, all those sports betters, bereft of any professional team game, can now hone their poker skills. I imagine that the online betting sites are making a fortune these days on those unfortunate thousands in insolation. Is there a better way to kill time than playing poker online?  Your family cannot even criticize you for not going out and getting a job.  As the British adverts say, when it stops being fun, stop playing.

Another victim of the sports suspension are the thousands of hawkers in the stadiums around the world who would be otherwise busy (and employed) bringing hot dogs, beer and ice cream to your seats.  True, some teams are arranging some compensation for them in the short time but who knows how long the suspension will last.  However, there is another way for them to use their skills of yelling and hauling that would combine public service and private relief. In cities under curfew, they could circulate affected residential neighborhoods calling out: “Get your burritos, hamburgers and hot dogs”. Even the most addicted poker player needs food from time to time. On the other hand, the amount of fat, cholesterol and salt in these foods probably is more dangerous than the virus.

As for the athletes themselves, neither of these options are relevant as they need neither the money from poker nor the calories from junk food. On the other hand, it might be a great opportunity for them to read books.  Professional athletes do not have the reputation of being great intellectuals, although there must be some exceptions even if I cannot think of any particular player. Both electronic and paper books are very popular and accessible now. The knowledge attained in a month or so (we hope) of active reading may be useful for them in the future when they retire or have to help their children with homework. As Mr. Buffet says, opportunity comes to those who seek it.

I am not making light of the disease nor intending to show disrespect to the families of those that have died of it. I simply find that laughter is the best medicine even it is not omnipotent. I personally cannot change the reality and know that this too shall pass. In the meantime, to keep my sanity, I have to laugh. Still, I find it extremely upsetting, albeit understandable, that the baseball season is suspended. For that and all the much more important reasons, let’s hope that the corona virus becomes as forgotten as the Toyota Corona.

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