Note: Column first published in the Idaho Press on March 15, 2020
BY MIKE PRATER
THE IDAHO PRESS
The television is eerily weird on this Saturday … Sunday … for how long?
It’s Selection Sunday weekend and there’s supposed to be mass hysteria on college basketball courts throughout the nation, not in the toilet paper aisles of our local stores.
On this weekend every year, we typically watch teams we suddenly pretend to care about. Players we’ve never heard of.
And stress over brackets that are worthless after 24 hours.
Instead, on this historic and very bizarre weekend of no sports, we’re watching the nation go crazy over a virus. It’s perfectly OK to be cautious and concerned when there’s a legitimate threat to our well-being, and there does appear to be a legitimate threat.
It’s another thing to panic — unless there’s only a few seconds left on the clock of a tight game and a March Madness invite on the line.
Not on this Saturday. Sunday. For how long?
The sports world — at every level — has disappeared before our very eyes. Not just changed — but completely disappeared overnight, and there’s no guarantee it’s coming back anytime soon.
Worried about Major League Baseball starting in April?
Worried about high school championships in May?
Worried about the NBA or NHL crowning champions before the end of June?
Worried about the Olympics in July?
Worried about the end of the golf season in August?
I’m worried about the football season in September.
But, as I remind myself over and over, this is not the time to be dark, negative … panic.
Yes, the world is changing. Again.
But we will survive. And thrive. Again.
There is a silver lining in the loss of sports — an intense, divisive and time-consuming creature.
The hardcores will obsess about NFL free agency for the next month. That doesn’t seem too healthy.
So let’s take a chill pill.
Strongly advised for all.
Time for more balance — myself included.
Less sports greed.
More pause buttons.
More deep breaths.
Remember, the Super Bowl is our country’s biggest event. Period. Sports or not. And two out of every three people don’t even watch the game. Sports are important. Not that important, and fragile enough to crash hard after one NBA player tested positive.
We’ve seen all the social media suggestions, the variety of ways to fill our suddenly massive voids: Read, exercise, hang with the family, volunteer, catch up on ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries, hug a truck driver who’s making toilet paper deliveries.
I started Friday night with my non-sports go-to: A concert, possibly the last one around here for a long time. Rosanne Cash.
People packed into the Egyptian.
A nod to her music and her legendary father.
The music was fine, a little mellow for a Metallica kind of guy.
The message was brilliant. Perfectly timed.
Cash talked about inspiration and love. At one point, she told the story of how Shakespeare created some of his finest work while quarantined. Something about King Lear.
I’d rather watch King James.
But her message was dead on … take the chill pill. Spread joy. Become better humans.
Nobody is thrilled to be in this position, though liquor stores and pizza delivery chains should be OK. But the silver lining in our new reality is the opportunity to do something different, other than watch the Masters or Kentucky Derby for the umpteenth consecutive year.
Put a basketball hoop in your driveway, or plant a salsa garden. Wash your hands. Be nice to a student-athlete who just lost their senior season. Wash your hands. Be nice to someone who just lost their paycheck. Wash your hands.
Spend less time on social media.
With that said, my favorite tweet from Saturday, courtesy of a friend: “Day 2 without sports: Found a young lady sitting on my couch yesterday. Apparently she’s my wife. She seems nice.’’
Dare we predict a baby-boom in nine months?
Let’s all get along. Play nice. Expand our horizons.
Maybe we emerge from this chaos as a more likeable society.
Rosanne Cash thinks it’s possible, and said so during Friday’s show in downtown Boise. She told family stories, preached Americana, touched on the crazy times, and left us thinking with this beauty of a song line …
One day, sports will return to normal: At the top of the priority list, where it belongs, where we feel whole.
And on that day, let’s hope crazed humans are rushing from the toilet paper aisle, only to get home in time for the next big game on television.
Crazier things have happened.
Like everything we witnessed in the past week.
Mike Prater is the Idaho Press sports columnist and co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk on KTIK 93.1 FM every Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. and Bronco Game Night after every Boise State football game on KTIK and KBOI 670 AM. He can be found on Twitter @MikeFPrater and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.