How Sports Saved My Pandemic Brain
And taught me what’s really important in life
The NBA post-season ended in July, the Olympics came and went in August, the US Open was over before I knew it in September, so when the football season kicked off last weekend, I was thrilled. Before Covid, I could not have told you the difference between a shortstop and a running back, but as pandemic life crawled forward with no end in sight, I’ve gone from being a casual sports viewer to a total fanatic. Sports, as I’ve discovered, is the one thing I can still get excited about in an overwhelmingly hopeless and deeply annoying moment in human history.
I used to hate sports. Growing up, I regarded them as exhausting to play — I had to go to occupational therapy for several years because I lacked hand-eye coordination — and even more exhausting to watch. When I was a kid, I’d visit my dad’s brother (“Uncle Al”) in Long Island a handful of weekends every year. Uncle Al’s house was always a trip — he collected cacti, always had a calendar with pictures of naked ladies on his fridge, and everything reeked of pot. I’d often find him lounging on the leather couch in his living room, watching golf on his giant TV. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to watch golf. I couldn’t detect any narrative, and I never got why they all clapped so softly.
“Why do you like golf? It’s so borrr-ing,” I asked Uncle Al. “There’s no story.”
“There is a story,” Uncle Al claimed, “once you know all the players.” The more golf you watch, he suggested, the more appealing golf became. After you got acquainted with the players and learned about their rivalries and their histories, golf basically became a soap opera.
At the time, I was not persuaded by Uncle Al’s argument. I could only see golf as a slow moving game full of stuffy guys in polo shirts. As I’ve grown older, I’ve reconsidered many things I disregarded as a child, as one does, and I’ve realized that Uncle Al was totally right. Before the pandemic began, I’d already started warming to the whole sports thing — I mean, who doesn’t like to spend a Sunday afternoon at Citi Field or watch Olympic figure skating? But it wasn’t until October 2020 that it became a full-fledged obsession. A month after I had moved…