How the World Today is Teaching Us the Trivial Reality of Sports

By Chris Pennington on June 3, 2020 at 8:05 am
The starters for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets stand on the ice for the American National Anthem prior to the game at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

For maybe the first time in my life, I'm glad sports aren't happening.

I'm a creature of distraction. If anything stressful, worrisome or uncomfortable pops up throughout my day, I tend to throw my mind and actions to any kind of interruption to coax my mind back to what I perceive as normalcy.

Sports. Music. Entertainment. Food. Relationships. Whatever it may be, I find that I love to numb uncertainty in my life with what I think are tangible interruptions such as these. That way, I don't have to focus on the issue at hand, no matter if it is something personal to me or just going on around me.

For a little bit, it really does work.

Watching a two-and-a-half-hour hockey game, binging on some Raising Cane's or texting everyone in my contact list "hi" can make me feel a little better and provide some amnesia to my troubling reality.

And when those get old, I switch up the distraction outlet. Maybe I'll watch the Batman trilogy for the 13th time instead of pigging out on fried chicken, or lay in bed listening to John Mayer on repeat instead of catching a sports game.

Eventually, though, the fog lifts.

Then I'm left staring at those realities, and they're staring right back at me. Currently, they go by the names of COVID-19 and George Floyd. Along with many other things in life.

I am someone who loves and often needs to feel at homeostasis. I want to feel okay about my past. I want to feel comfortable with my present. I want to feel confident about my future. And when something interrupts any of those three vibes - boom - it's distractions time. Right now, the world is not letting me return to homeostasis very easily.

And I bet it's the same for you.

This might be the loudest I've ever heard the planet in my time here. Whether it's an opinion I'm hearing on George Floyd's murder or the protests as a result, or needing stricter mask-wearing or COVID-19 being a myth, and everything in between, it's hard to even hear our own thoughts right now.

And even if we aren't publically sharing our opinions, we still likely do have an opinion about all of this. We are all thinking about and contemplating what in the world is going on. And the reason we're getting to do that thinking or sharing so much, for many of us at least, is because the sports world is almost entirely deceased. We can't run to that distraction like we're so used to doing.

So, here's a thought. If we'll let it, I firmly believe this time of sports-vacancy could be some of the most important times of our lives (so far).


Because for many of us in the past, myself included, we have been able to scroll through Twitter, read the newspaper or listen to a news anchor tell about a travesty going on around us, and immediately flip the channel to a game, any game, to take our mind off of it.

Trinidad and Tobago vs Paraguay? Does it mean I don't have to watch the news, or even think about life around me? Count me in! And if it's not a game, it's Sportscenter. And if it's not Sportscenter it's sports tracking on social media. And if it's not any of that, it's our local beer league hockey team or rec basketball league. 

But now, we're in sports limbo. This means we are able to give a lot of previously "busy time" (watching 10:30 PM Blue Jackets games and waking up exhausted) to things of importance (I'll get to what I mean by this shortly).

We, all of a sudden, have more time to reach out to our black (and any minority) friends and see how they are doing. We have more time to have Zoom and FaceTime calls with relatives that we hardly talked to. And depending on who is reading this, we may even have more money (by not eating out) to be able to give to organizations that are fighting for good in the world in a time where it seems like there isn't all that much good. We have more time to a lot of things in relation to major world events. 

That is why I am a big fan of this time.

Because it has revealed to me how fixated I can get on a game. Sadly, I can almost guarantee for myself that if sports were still on right now, they'd take a big priority in my life, despite what I am seeing on the news, in my life and in my heart. I would have spent (literally) days watching Blue Jackets games and Los Angeles Lakers games, all while keeping up with them on Twitter, along with the dozens of other teams I lazily follow. And you know what?

My life would pretty much be the same as it is now.

Meaning that the religious amount of time that I give to sports has just really never benefited me all that much in regards to that feeling of doing what truly is of importance in life (I'll get to that soon, don't worry). 

When the Blue Jackets swept the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, I'll admit I cried in the stands. Seeing a team that I grew up watching finally accomplish something really was emotional for me. At the moment, it felt like that was the most valuable thing I could be witnessing.

But a year later, I will also admit it's nothing more than a fond memory. I'll probably tell my kids about it, but let's be real, they won't care. They won't tell their kids about it. And their kids' kids won't even know what a Blue Jacket is. They say banners last forever, but the people who are supposed to remember them aren't forever.

In all reality, the Blue Jackets could have won the Stanley Cup last season, and our lives still really wouldn't have changed. As soon as any team in any sport wins a championship - ESPN quickly puts out their "Way-Too-Early Championship Favorites" for the following season. The time to enjoy being a fan of a successful team is laughably short - and opposing fans will immediately tell you "stop celebrating, that was LAST year."

Which makes me think even deeper into my psyche of sports fandom as a whole. Am I really investing this much time into something that a) will not affect my life and b) will not be affected by my life? I mean seriously. If I had not been born, I know that every sports moment that has happened since my birth would have still happened, and the following events of sports history would still happen. Me as a person, cheering my teams on, investing energy into researching them and attending games has done nothing for them as a franchise.

Don't get me wrong.

I love sports. I love hockey. I love the Blue Jackets. And I think having good, healthy distractions in life is, well, good and healthy.

Being a fan of a sports team and putting time and emotion into them aren't inherently unhealthy things. They are really fun and can build wholesome communities. To be able to relax and unwind with a late-night game or head to a stadium with friends can recharge and refuel us for our daily lives.

You know, the daily lives in which reality exists.

But here is what (I think) my point is, and where I think a problem could lie, I'll at least say for me. I can make sports - the following of, the playing of, the investment in - my life's worth and identity. My reality. And I take other things - COVID-19, George Floyd's murder, family and friends investment, so many other things that I would soberly say are more valuable, and I make them a blimp on my daily agenda of thought and action.

So, back to what I have been mentioning what is of importance in life. The bottom line life is I can't convince you of what is or should be objectively important to humans as a whole, or what is or should be objectively important to you personally. Meaning, if you think that sports should be the most important thing in your life, then that is your life to live. If you want to die with a sports cap on your tombstone and have everyone say at your funeral what a big athlete or sportsperson you were, then all the power to you.

But, if any part of you has ever questioned, or is questioning in this time of sports absence if there is something greater in your life you could be investing in, I'd encourage you to give that a further questioning. As the sports world begins to open back up, do you want to give the time to it that you were giving to it before?

I don't care about coming across as too deep on a Columbus Blue Jackets sports blog. Because if we've learned anything as a people in 2020, it's that human life is sacred. And I'd argue it's worth giving our time and lives for. To live beyond ourselves, as if there just might be a greater calling on our lives that we might be settling instead of.

And I'm not saying we all need to just go out and pick a side just for the sake of picking a side. That’s not my message in this context. The least beneficial thing would be for all of us to choose a "team" just to feel like we're "winning" the debates going on. The focus in that mindset is ultimately on ourselves, and leads to further divide. Humbling ourselves, looking inward and having a willingness to learn from others is a great place to begin.

I don't want to be remembered as the guy who loved the Blue Jackets or was obsessed with LeBron or collected all those ticket stubs. I want to be known as someone who lived their life in a way for the servanthood of those around me, and enjoyed life even deeper and more fully because of that decision (and knowing I will fail at this, a lot).

I'd love to engage with you in any thoughts you may have. Go Jackets, y'all.

I'll close with a favorite quote of mine.

"Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?"

- Leo Tolstoy

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