As daylight faded and gave way to a picture-perfect sunset at the University of San Diego’s Fowler Park last Wednesday, it dawned on me: this might be the last live sporting event I watch for a while. With the Toreros holding Cal Baptist hitless through the game’s first six innings, it was as riveting as a contest as I have seen so far this spring. But by the game’s midpoint, it all began to seem insignificant.
Enjoying what feels like the last live sports event I’m gonna have the chance to watch for a while…?
Toreros and Cal Baptist scoreless midway through the 4th on a beautiful night at Fowler Park. ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/AhiPpcvrkG
— Anderson Haigler (@ahaigler5) March 12, 2020
We all know now how the night would end. The National Basketball Association shut down that evening, the first domino to fall before each and every sport in America put things on pause, or worse, entirely canceled their seasons.
By the later innings, the news was flying around at a dizzying pace, faster than Twitter could keep up with, with each refresh of the timeline bringing forth new information about the virus. Unbeknownst to the seemingly earth-shattering news unfolding across the country, the ballplayers on the field played on, greeting each pitch with the unbridled enthusiasm that makes college baseball so wonderful.
Reminding me of just how precious and beloved, yet unimportant our sports may be in the grand scheme of things. Precious because sports are where we turn to for an escape from the ills and evils of the real world, ills like the COVID-19 Coronavirus. For all of their faults, for all of their scandals and corruption, sports offer a diversion from a world that is increasingly filled with strife and bad news. Whether you’re a sports fan, journalist, or something in-between, whether you’re an Aztecs’ guy or Padres’ girl, a reporter covering the Toreros or a game-day worker with the Tritons, having a chance to watch world-class athletes compete at a variety of levels here in San Diego is what brings us all together.
Similarly, athletics have a way of feeling like the most important thing in the world and perhaps the least important thing in the world, all at the same time, and they bring us the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But even after the most soul-crushing of defeats, we can go about our daily lives knowing that for as hollow of a cliche, it may be, “it’s just sports,” and that there’s always tomorrow, next game, or even next season.
This week, and perhaps even this year as a whole, however, have invaded that sacred space. In terms of scheduling, we don’t know when “tomorrow,” “next time,” or even “next season” will be. The Aztecs’ magical men’s basketball season has been abruptly and prematurely ended, their genuine hopes of capturing a national title dashed. The start of the San Diego Padres’ impending season has been delayed for at least another month, the momentum surrounding the team as they got off to a roaring start this spring seemingly dissipated for the time being. And spring college sports as a whole have been canceled, with countless athletes’ seasons taken away without warning. The Coronavirus has both literally and figuratively infected the sporting world, and many people’s last refuge from a stressful global crisis is now gone.
— GoAztecs (@GoAztecs) March 13, 2020
At this point, however, I know that the Coronavirus is more significant than sports, bigger than our favorite teams, bigger than Opening Day or March Madness, bringing me to my earlier mention of how unimportant games may be. All it takes is a look around the world, and to an extent, around the U.S. to see how quickly this virus can get out of hand and have tragic, widespread consequences. I know that postponing sporting events is the right decision, one that will save lives. It’s a decision that will ensure the safety of the players and fans alike, one that is a necessary step to try to stop the transmission of COVID-19 before it’s too late. As of now, it’s a luxury to have the quality of life even to be debating the impact the lack of sports will have. However, that doesn’t make their absence hurt any less.
But I also know that whenever it may be that sports come back and things get back to normal, I will cherish them that much more, and be that much more grateful to have them in my life. I’ll be thankful the next time I take stats at the USD Softball Complex, thankful the next time I work a tennis match for the Toreros or interview a high school athlete for a feature story. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, as soon as it’s safe and prudent to do so, I’ll be back at Fowler Park, watching my favorite college team do battle, taking in the sights and sounds of our dearly loved game, or at Petco Park covering the Padres, getting the scoop for the East Village Times. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, stadiums and press boxes across the country are full of fans and writers, and all is right in the world again. When that will be, I don’t know, and as a country, we have far more severe things to worry about right now.
They say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I only speak for myself in admitting that I may have taken sports for granted before they were temporarily gone — it just seemed unfathomable that they would ever not be there. But whenever the sports world resumes again and picks up where it left off, I know that fans will be ready to cheer their teams on louder than ever. And I will be ready to get back to work, with a newfound sense of resolve and gratitude.