Sports is the gateway for billions of people across the globe to use as an escape from the drama and the muck of the world around us. It seems like the biggest headlines each day are topics that can stress any person like politics and economics, especially in these times.
For us, asking the question “how about the game last night?” holds more weight that many would consider. That is because it gives many of us something fresh to talk about that isn’t work, family, or religion related. Also, it is something there is great passion in. Fanbases are like brotherhoods, and when a team wins a championship, the entire city wins with it.
We are constantly being pushed in life that as we get older, it is time to get our responsibilities in check and that adult life is spent working. That may be true but where is the fun in that?
As children, most of our earliest memories were spent dribbling a ball in the driveway or playing football with our neighborhood friends. Most nights we came in the house all smelly and sweaty but with anticipation of playing again tomorrow. Many tomorrows continued and that bled into school competition where we wanted a release from all the classes and drama as young adults, so we gravitated towards sports, the one link we had from our childhood.
Before you knew it, we graduated and suddenly were faced with a decision that would affect the rest of our lives. We didn’t want to give up the one thing we loved the most growing up, so we pursued it and decided to create narratives and still be integrated in the game one way or another.
But what is life without sports, without a narrative, without a headline, without something to look forward to each night that isn’t dinner? That is the empty world we are living in today.
Life continues to go on for many but what is life for the writers whose whole topics are gone? That is like a taking away food from a chef, they have to get creative for something to fulfill themselves. Suddenly there are no games to cover anymore and we are desperate for anything, which is literally why there was a televised HORSE game. Although there are no more games to cover, the landscape has changed and somehow people in the sports media world have to focus their attention on other tasks.
For Brooke Pryor, an ESPN NFL Nation Steelers reporter, her job is derived from attending games and practices. A UNC graduate, it is her duty to create narratives and luckily in these times while the NFL is off-season, she has free-agency to report on.
In her time working from home in Pittsburgh, she has spent most of her time writing features and profile stories. Those stem from the personal connections she has built over her time as a professional journalist.
She says that part of the personal connection is her ability and efforts to try to make whoever she is speaking to, laugh at least once. From there she establishes that human connection and can advance to pursue a professional relationship to create better stories in the future. Her goal as a writer, she says, is to use that personal connection she has and lend it to the reader to make them feel like they also know the person in question as well.
“That is what I think is so great about sports.” Pryor said. “You can feel all of these things through the prism of something that in the grand scheme of the world is not that important.”
In these times, it seems sports is the one thing we do need. The only headlines now are what the President said the day before, how many have died to this point and how much we miss our old lives. If there was ever a time, we needed an escape, a reason to be entertained, something that wasn’t produced from Hollywood, it would be now.
Just like Hollywood, Tammy Degroff, head of the athletic communications at the University of Memphis, feels that the times we are currently in is like a scene from a movie. Her busy schedule, which consisted of only three days off in the entire month of March has now become an empty calendar with almost too much of nothing to do.
Working from home, like millions of Americans are, she has spent her time doing summer work in the spring. From finishing record books to writing biographies, the thought of many businesses moving to permanent work from home could be a possibility.
“This is going to become pretty normal.” Degroff said.
As the Associate Director for Men’s Basketball for the Memphis Tigers, Phil Stukenborg is consumed in the sports world. From setting up interviews for head coach Penny Hardaway, to being with the team on the road, life is not the same without a season. That is the life he lives now.
“If you are in this business, you are kind of used to having sports on in the background.” Stukenborg said. “You always had something else to look at and for this, not even in the US but in the world, there’s nothing to watch.”
The world is in some ways standing still for us. Some of us see these athletes as untouchable. When something happens, like Kobe Bryant’s recent passing, it hits us hard because we remember how relatable we really are. No longer are they figures on our televisions; they are people who inhale the same air we do.
We separate each other by status, by ambitions, by things that truly aren’t of importance when we breathe our last breath. We hail up people with these talents as if they are gods among us. However, they also struggle with anxiety, relationships, and even money at times. Life becomes more than fame and fortune. Life becomes a journey and we all are in the same chapter of the book of history.
So, when the virus hits NBA and NFL stars it makes sense that leagues stop. It makes sense that we huddle around our brothers and sisters and put it on hold for the greater good. The games will always continue, but our lives have a final buzzer.