A Must Win Game – Sports in Perspective

PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC will be empty on Thursday, March 19th

A few days ago I penned an article that we chose not to publish. It was too selfish. The article was mostly about how disappointed I was that I wouldn’t be able to see the Blues play the Hurricanes in Raleigh. I live in Taylors, South Carolina, about 4 hours from the home of the Carolina Hurricanes- PNC Arena. My best friend was going to fly up from Jacksonville. He’d be joining me and my oldest son, who lives in Raleigh. I was also going to bring along another friend who has never been to a hockey game. Remember your first hockey game?

There was a big part of me that understood the NHL postponing the rest of the season. But if I’m being honest, there was also a part of me that wanted to just keep going about my normal life. Don’t we all? This trip was going to be great! The last time I saw my best friend I surprised him by driving 5 hours to Jacksonville. I knocked on his door one hour before the start of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. He’s the reason I’m a Blues fan.

Best friends just before Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals- we’d get em in Game 7

I hadn’t seen my oldest son since the weekend before Christmas. I joined him in Raleigh for the Blues’ game last year as well, and it was going to be year 2 of our annual tradition. And my other friend- the one who has never been to a game- I was so looking forward to taking him to his first, just as my best friend took me to my first game.

Sports in Perspective

But compared to the gravity of our current situation, my selfish desires mean nothing. I find it hard to believe now that I was actually considering attending the game this Thursday. It’s a relief that the NHL took the decision out of my hands. I don’t think I’m so unique in that regard though. How many among us met the decision with a groan initially? “Why?… Do we seriously need to shut down the season?” After all, sports are the ultimate distraction.

We fall back on the games to forget about life’s problems. But how many people in PNC Arena would’ve had the virus? 4? 300? 2,000? And how many more fans would’ve walked out of there late that night, either bemoaning a loss or rejoicing in a win, and spread it to so many others? There is no way to tell, and that’s why it is time to take a break from sports. Call it halftime, or a timeout.

It’s an intermission, so that we may truly come together as a team, even as we try our best to keep a safe distance from one another. We have to go on defense. We’re keeping score and measuring wins and losses in a whole new way. When the Italian lady who was battling for her life gets the ok from her doctor to go home, it’s a victory and a comeback for the ages. When a 50-year-old man’s immune system is just strong enough to fight it off, it’s as if the opposing team rang one off the post…

As sports fans, we miss the games and look forward to the season resuming. And when it does, we’ll walk down the steps at the arena, look down at our ticket and verify that we’ve found the correct row. We’ll offer an “excuse me” and a “pardon me” as we sidestep past fans already in their seats while we balance our beer and hot dog. That moment is sometime in the future, hopefully, in the very near future, but this morning when I went to my local grocery store, there were no hot dogs. Nor was there any chicken, or ground beef, and there certainly wasn’t any toilet paper.

It’s Going to Take Teamwork

It’s said that sports bridges the cultural divide. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, black or white, liberal or conservative – if you’re team scores you’re giving the person next to you a high five. Well, here’s hoping this nation comes together and works as a team. Here’s hoping that Republicans and Democrats alike work together and make smart decisions. They’re the coaches in this scenario, but they can only strategize so much.

As in any game, it’s up to the players to execute. So we, as the players, have to be smart. We have to wash our hands, stay home if we’re sick and keep from congregating in places like PNC Arena and the Enterprise Center. We’ll need to battle in the corners, be strong on the puck, be unselfish and put the team first. And when we do that, we’ll win. We’ll beat the virus that has COVOID #19 on the back of its jersey.

And by the way, I’m really hoping that the Blues/Hurricanes game is rescheduled a month or 2 from now.

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