Commentary by Grace Pointner

I’m talking to myself as much as anyone. To my own blindness, my own lack of creativity, my own chill. We walk with our heads down. We shuffle our feet. Our eyes are glazed over by blue-light and our own image. We rely on the organization of others to indulge our habits. And we move through space forgetting that others exist in it with us. Our own backyards and our own families have lost their potential to the commercialized love that media and mainstream entertainment provides. 

It can be argued that sports bring people together, and this is true. Sports, perhaps, negate the above scenario— they are the eye of the storm. They are the “mainstream entertainment” that does not numb the senses to real human interaction. Sports merge physicality and creativity! How could they make one blind, boring and cold? 

But the truth of the matter is, sports are just as bad as anything. Obsession with the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, and so on, have curbed the popularity of other sports. These professional elite leagues monopolize the sports scene and have caused us to forget that physicality and creativity can be combined in more mundane ways. A “team” does not have to be a group of elite athletes. A field does not have to be manicured by high-tech lawn mowers or replaced by plastic grass. A game does not need spectators. 

COVID 19: Tsunami effect

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating ripple effect on sports from T-ball up to the major leagues. Everybody knows this. It’s like a tsunami.

Moms and Dads are home from work. Children are being homeschooled. National entertainment is seemingly canceled. But, spring is coming. And so, the warm sun has become the new stadium lighting as sons mow the lawn for the trophy of their younger siblings freshly baked cookies.

Across the nation, the neighborhood sidewalk will transform into a track and field event. Dog walking is the new sporting trend. Husbands and wives will captain a new team called family, and activities indoors and out are replacing the mundane action of watching sports. Now, more than ever, people are playing sports again. 

These sports are not always conventional. From the perspective of my small midwestern neighborhood, trampolines, bike riding, gardening, and frisbee have swept our little village faster than COVID-19 has.

Bursting with glee, my 5-year-old neighbor has become an expert at jumping and falling to her back as her backyard “tramp” springs her into the afternoon air with a joyous bounce. Caravans of families, large and small, race each other on bikes as neighboring seniors wave a flag to signify a winner. Competition becomes community with no discrimination between gender, age or ability. 

My own parents are in need of endless ice packs and Advil as they return from a long day’s work in the yard. Battling the opposing team— weeds and leaves— they work together to overcome and find victory with our neighbors standing by with applause, their own games won. Directly across from my office window, I can see the family from the brown house playing frisbee with gusto. Youngest against oldest, it seems, causing me to cheer for the underdog and “boo” when the older siblings leave with success. 

What If?

Professional and collegiate sports will, of course, return. And they will return with celebration and a sigh of relief.  The television will turn on, and families will cheer for their favorite team. Parents will drive their children to endless practices, and college athletes will compete for conference titles and national accolades and professional players will have their career back. And all of this will be joyous! 

But perhaps this break— this stillness of lifestyle— will remind families and neighborhoods of the glory of their own abilities. When all settles and normalcy, as we know it, returns, what if the pace of quarantined life stayed? What if televised and coordinated competitions existed in tandem with backyard pick-up games, family bike rides, exercising of the dog and yard work? 

Could the potency of the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB diffuse itself, and used to inspire young children to jump on the trampoline with their dad or weed with a vigor next to their mom? Could we remember that sports haven’t really left us at all?  

Sports are a gift. Is there anything else that peaceably involves human physicality and human artistry so intrinsically? The need for power and finesse, for athleticism and tact, is unique to sports. And so, before the return of professional sports, neighborhoods, families, me myself, need to remember that we can “do sports.” We can compete with the weeds, run with a purpose on the sidewalk and enjoy the applause of those beside us. 

Sports have not left us. Rather, they have been reinvented and “renaissanced” into a more neighborly activity. They have brought us together, as they always do, with a new set of equipment and uniform. Let’s not become blind and cold to the game waiting for us at our back door, let’s join in the fun and hold onto the lessons these days at home have taught us.