By Jason Klein
I can live without sports.
I just did it for nineteen weeks.
During a global pandemic, some things are hard to make sense of. For me, one thing became very clear.
I can do it. I can live without sports.
Long before this virus, my Grandma tried to put things in perspective for me. It was 1997 and the Jets had just thrown another season away. I was devastated. I was inconsolable. I needed time alone to collect my thoughts and regain control of my emotions. Recognizing my agony, Grandma put her arm around me, leaned in, and whispered:
“Jason, dear…It’s just a game.”
Just a game? Just a game?!
She was trying to trivialize one of the most important things in my life. I couldn’t muster a coherent response. I sat stewing in silence. Sports were so much more than “just a game!” Sports were my passion, my escape, my everything! How could she not understand that? How could my own Grandma be so insensitive? How could someone with so much wisdom be so wrong?
It took me twenty-two years, but now I understand what she meant.
On March 12, 2020, the games stopped. In that time, I learned how to live without them and better prioritize what really matters.
Without sports, I focus almost exclusively on my health, my safety and my ability to provide those two things for my family. I’m more patient, more tolerant and more grateful for the things that I have.
Without sports, my calendar is empty, but my days are full. While home schooling my daughters, I got to study the American Revolution and do art projects with my 4th grader. I practiced sight words and built forts with my Kindergartener. I became a Google Classroom savant and somehow figured out how to fill twelve hours, daily, with socially distant and educational activities. I also gained immeasurable respect for the teachers who flourish in these demanding roles during normal times.
Spending all day, every day, with my children is a blessing and a challenge at the same time. Coffee helps me perk up and tequila helps me wind down. I have a better appreciation for my personal time. I treasure small windows where I can exercise, read, or simply go to the bathroom without little fingers reaching under the door.
Without sports, I know the true value of Clorox wipes, Lysol spray, and a good mask that doesn’t pinch the back of my ears. I appreciate short lines at the supermarket and a store shelf stocked with toilet paper.
Without sports, I can easily identify real heroes. They’re the ones who work at the supermarket, deliver my mail, haul away my garbage and battle this disease on the frontline every day. Healthcare workers, like my wife, make sacrifices to keep themselves and their families out of harm’s way. It’s something we deal with in our home. It’s nerve-racking, and at times, scary, but I’m thankful for the protective measures we’ve taken to secure a safe and comfortable living environment.
Without sports, I’ve become a big fan of science, facts and rational thinking. I’m grateful for those in our local community who follow suit. They’re the ones who keep proper hygiene, maintain their distance and responsibly wear masks in public to protect others. They’re also the ones who choose common sense and human decency over politics. They set a good example and help me manage virus-related anxiety and paranoia. I’m hopeful other parts of our country start to take things this seriously.
During our time without sports, this cruel and savage virus has separated us from our loved ones when we need them most. I miss hugging my parents and having drinks with my friends. I miss date nights with my wife and taking family vacations.
Pandemic life has been challenging. It’s been exhausting. It’s been stressful.
It’s been without sports.
Major League Baseball returns this evening with a small dose of normalcy. Typically the
soundtrack of my summer, baseball has been silent since mid-March. An abbreviated 60 game season will start, but the virus determines if it will finish. Empty stadiums, player testing, social distancing and masks in the dugout still might not be enough to prevent COVID-19 from upending MLB-20.
While it lasts, I’ll enjoy something familiar and reassuring. I’ll take solace in the mental
escape sports provide. It will be nice, for a change, to worry about Aaron Judge’s health instead of my own.
For many reasons, it can be argued that this is the most important season in baseball
history. Yet, if COVID cases rise, and more lives are at risk, baseball should stop in its tracks. After all, my Grandma was right, baseball is just a game. This virus, most certainly, is not. Nineteen weeks later, I fully understand this.
I’ve learned I can live without sports.
With baseball back, I’m just glad I don’t have to anymore.