One of the best things about sports is that we’re supposed to know when they start, and when they end. It’s on the calendar, right there in black and white: start of the season, end of the regular season, playoffs, championship.
I’ve always believed that their predictability and stability is one of the reasons that sports have been a central pillar of society since human beings invented society.
We don’t know when we’ll die, we don’t know what day our children will be born, we don’t know the last time we’ll walk out of our house or text our parents–but sports, at least, have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The major sports leagues in America have faced little to no disruption over the last century, and only twice in the last 120 years have high school sports in California been canceled statewide.
That stability disappeared, along with much of normal life, when the COVID-19 virus canceled sports at all levels in America, in California, and in Long Beach a week and a half ago. The result is a series of threads that have been cut off in the middle. Trivial problems, of course, compared to the people dying and worrying about dying in the face of the virus. And yet all of our lives and expectations and hopes have been put on pause over the last week, and that’s no small thing either.
My kids’ baseball seasons at the Los Altos Youth Baseball and Softball facility at El Dorado Park have been canceled, leaving my four year-old daughter confused and my six year-old son heartbroken. He loved his team and coaches, loved recognizing friends on the other team, and loved that his team this year was good (really good!).
Last weekend we took a family drive around town, soaking up some sun and familiar places while practicing social distancing. We cruised by the ballpark at El Dorado, and I was astonished at how empty it was. We’ve spent so many hours and so many days at that park the last three seasons that I couldn’t even begin to count it up, and not once have we had an easy time parking.
I got emotional looking at all that space with no kids running around, playing catch, tackling each other, picking dandelions, or racing to the snack shack to wait for postgame treats.
Baseball isn’t the only season that’s been interrupted this Spring, of course–an entire season of life is holding its breath around my city and around the world.
There’s a Poly track athlete I covered, Saundria Martin, who’s now a sprinter at UCLA. Saundria had to hold a memorial service for her father in her living room last week because of the virus. Sean McGee and Heather Eggers are two volleyball players I covered at Lakewood who’ve returned to their alma mater as volunteer coaches. They got married last weekend, with their big ceremony and celebration postponed until after normal life resumes. Wilson softball player Sinclair Lawhorn, who I’ve known since she was practically a toddler, signed a scholarship with Long Beach State last weekend–instead of a big ceremony at the school, she did it in her living room. My friend Conor and his wife and infant daughter were scheduled to move from New York back to Southern California this week, plans that are now on hiatus for the time being.
Amazing athletes across the city are waiting for the word that they can resume play, many of them texting us that they’re bored, or scared, or sad. It is a heartbreaking time, made even more so by its unpredictability.
The hardest part of this shutdown, for me and for my family, is that there are no answers on hand and none coming soon.
We don’t know when Saundria’s father will get his big sendoff. We don’t know when Sean and Heather will get to celebrate their marriage with their friends and family, or when Sinclair will get her round of applause from her classmates. We don’t know when El Dorado will once again be filled with shrieking, excited kids seeing who can blow the biggest bubblegum bubble in between innings.
In an affront to the orderly proceedings of sports, the disruption wasn’t on the schedule–the end of the disruption isn’t, either. All I know is that when we do get back to the things we love, which we will, is that it will be hard to take them for granted ever again.