Sports

Sports still has challenges, character, drama - just no games

In the meantime, we have more TV reruns of games than anyone can watch

Kansas City Royals Billy Hamilton and Bubba Starling celebrate after their team beat the Chicago White Sox last July 18
Kansas City Royals Billy Hamilton and Bubba Starling celebrate after their team beat the Chicago White Sox last July 18 at Kauffmann Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. It was one of the Royals’ 59 wins last season. (Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

"What are you going to write about now?"

I’ve gotten that question — from safe distances — a few dozen times since sports and most of our other diversions have shut down indefinitely. My involuntary reaction is usually similar to the one you’d get if you took a shot to the gut.

No, there are no games, no scores. I tried to stage time trials of the squirrels who dash across the power line that hovers over my backyard fence, but trying to organize that was futile. The neighbor’s dog barks at those squirrels when it spots them up there, and that skews the results when the squirrels come to a dead stop in either fear or amusement.

Who can tell what squirrels are thinking? Other than “Must find walnut.”

But I digress. What will we have to write about now? Well, the same basic thing we’ve always had. Which is how high-achieving humans react in challenging moments.

How does a coach keep a team together from afar? How do athletes maintain focus, and discipline when left to their own devices? How do athletics administrators cope with the new reality when nothing in their experiences provide any sort of blueprint?

There will be sports stories, and there will be more sports stories. And one day again, there will be sports.

It’s not that there isn’t sports to watch on television right now, it’s just that it’s all reruns. Most of it is called “classic.” I didn’t necessarily agree with NBC Sports Chicago telling me the other night that a Chicago White Sox-Kansas City Royals game of last July 18 was “Classic MLB.”

Nor I could figure out why it even re-aired. The Royals went on to a 59-103 record, while the Sox went 72-89. No time capsule would have accepted any of their 2019 games.

Most of the other replays have been a lot more meaningful than that example. I recently watched the ninth and 10th innings of the Chicago Cubs’ Game 7 win over Cleveland in the 2016 World Series.

I remember viewing it live four years ago and being overwhelmed with the tension and excitement and ultimately, the euphoria of the Cubs and their fans. It was one of the great nights in sports. Watching it again, though, and knowing how the thing turned out? I felt detached from it.

I can watch the same sitcom episode or movie over and over and still find them entertaining. I’ll listen to Chrissie Hynde sing “Middle of the Road” for a 500th time. But I need my games to be fresh.

When I sat at my kitchen table to write this Friday morning — another new normal — I checked my television provider’s listings to see what was airing at the moment. Sports-wise, it was a buffet table with nothing but food that had been sitting out too long.

There was baseball on three networks, an NFL playoff game, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, a PGA Tour event, a track meet, a tennis match, soccer games from Germany and Africa, three different high school football games on three Fox Sports networks, and even a surfing competition.

None of it appealed to me. I wouldn’t even watch the 24-hour Puppy Bowl marathon that was on Animal Planet last Monday through early Tuesday. That was despite not having seen a moment of any previous Puppy Bowl. And who doesn’t love puppies?

Now, I must amend this to tell you there was legitimately live sports on television this weekend. For reasons that mystify, horse racing still is being permitted at a select few tracks around the U.S., and at some in Australia.

The races were held without fans, of course. However, it sure didn’t look like the horses were practicing proper social distancing during the races, as much as all of them tried to run clear of the others.

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Now, don’t take any offense if you’re one of those who enjoy watching “classic” sporting events on the tube. I’m not some paragon of taste and culture. I watched all seven episodes of “Tiger King” on Netflix.

If anyone knows how and why Joe Exotic had an Iowa Hawkeyes drinking mug, please get in touch with me. That’s the kind of content that will sustain us during this sports drought.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.