Year without sports

When I was a child, I lived out in the country and entertained myself in the early 1960’s by roaming the hills of West Virginia, playing simple games in simple times. Unless it was raining, I’d come home at lunch and then disappear again until dinner.

In the summer of 1963, I moved across the country to St. Louis – an urban area without woods, hills and streams. It was a slow, painful acclimation process. I was different than everyone else. In short, I had no friends and spent a lot of time alone.

My best friend became a radio, and my favorite broadcast was each and every Cardinals baseball game. Stan Musial was finishing up his 22-year career, and the Cardinals were chasing the Los Angeles Dodgers in pursuit of the National League pennant.

One month after I discovered the Cardinals, their season was over. To my delight, I found out that there was another St. Louis Cardinals team, and they played football in the NFL. Home games were not televised, but all of the games were on the radio.

For a lonely 8-year-old boy, sports was a lifeline. Back in 1960’s, St. Louis had a professional baseball, football and basketball team (before the Hawks moved to Atlanta). But after the Hawks left, we got a professional hockey team – the Blues.

My love affair with sports has spanned six decades. I’ve attended World Series games in St. Louis, NBA conference finals games in Dallas, an NCAA basketball championship game in San Antonio, and a U.S. Open Golf tournament in St. Louis.

When I became an adult, a job, a wife and children took up a lot of my time. Rightly so. But I never lost interest in sports, watching major (and not so major) games, matches and contests on television. My stepson even turned me on to British soccer.

I am not alone in my love for sports. For millions of people around the world, sports is a  welcome distraction from the news and troubles of the day. Sports is an escape into a world where men and women compete hard and then shake hands at the end.

But the coronavirus outbreak has brought the sports world to a standstill, with all major American and international leagues suspending or delaying their seasons. We’ve all been hopeful that the suspensions are temporary and there will be games in 2019.

Now ESPN football analyst Kirk Herbstreit says he would be “shocked” if football is played in 2020 due to the lack of a coronavirus vaccine. “I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football,” Herbstreit says.

This was a reality check for me. We’re at least a year from having a coronavirus vaccine. It’s hard to imagine athletes being allowed to go into locker rooms and stadiums filling up until then. If this is true, this will be a year without sports.

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