A week ago, I sat in an arena I’ve spent most of the winter in. JQH Arena was my second home. I covered the rollercoaster Missouri State men’s basketball season and helped cover the historic Lady Bears’ perfect home season. But last Thursday, I walked into an arena that was less than a quarter full.
I freelanced during the Missouri State High School Activities Association Class 1, 2 and 3 State Basketball Final Fours. I covered seven games in three days amid a pandemic. Yet every time I walked out of the tunnel and into the arena with no more than 300 people, I felt a sense of peace. This was an oasis — for me, for the athletes, for the fans.
Sports have been that oasis for so many throughout history — people can put aside their socio-political differences and cheer for the same team.
When the novel coronavirus stopped sports, it felt as though part of the world stopped. A hole was left in the hearts of not only players, coaches and fans but sports writers too.
It took a lot for MSHSAA to cancel its final basketball championships. While some were upset and others tweeted “Good for you, MSHSAA,” I felt my heart being pulled both ways. No person should have to risk their health for a simple game. At the same time, there are so many athletes who would risk it to play in their final game ever, and my heart goes out to them.
I sit here writing this, self-quarantined in my apartment, while my roommates are home with their families, and my heart aches for the fact that something so simple yet so powerful was removed from our lives in a matter of days. Sports aren’t just an oasis for me — they offer an escape from the world and its issues for a large population.
I know this is not the end of sports as we know it, but it’s a little hard to find the positives, isn’t it? I wish I had something more positive to say, but it’s so trying in a time like this.
I will say, my hope for hope has not diminished. My belief in the goodness of others has not gone away. My trust in what NBA fans know as “the process” remains.
I’m not writing this to beat down your hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. I guess I’m writing it to tell you an oasis remains, even if it’s not in the sports realm. There are good people out there doing good things. Even though the safety and comfort of sports is on hold, there are things bigger than sports that can give us hope. Pay attention to the good going on — the people of Italy singing into the streets; the young and healthy buying and delivering food to the elderly and at risk; athletes whose careers are on hold buying meals for those that need them.
This is scary, but I know it won’t last forever. Sports will fill our hearts again soon enough. In the meantime, find an oasis in the good going on. It just might be enough to patch the hole we’ve been feeling recently.