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March 13, 2020

In a world without sports, is it wrong to be hurt this bad?

Opinion Sports
2_Wells_Fargo_Center_sixers_76ersvsCeltics_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

The inside of the Wells Fargo Center prior to a Sixers game.

This is temporary. This is temporary.

It's a phrase I have to keep telling myself as I watch every semblance of my life's work dissipate in front of my eyes.

You see, I am a sportswriter. A sports editor. A sports fanatic. A lifelong consumer, commentator and lover of anything that involves a score or a ball.

And as I scroll through the hellscape of cancellations and bad news that is my Twitter feed, I am stuck with two fundamentally and mutually exclusive mindsets: that sports are trivial, and sports are everything.

Let me be clear, I am not questioning any of the tough decisions made by any of the professional and collegiate sports organizations in our country (and in the world) to suspend operations while humanity figures out how to cure itself of an aggressively spreading disease that could kill hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans. I am just questioning how exactly to continue over the next few weeks, or months (god, I hope it's not months) without competitions to break down.

Trivial. Insignificant. A secondary concern. 

All of these are true. But for the first time since, well, the inception of modern sport, from youth soccer to the MLS, from AAU basketball to the NBA, there will not be a single game played on Friday. And likely the Friday after this, and the Friday after that.

There is a void, a big one, and I am left feeling guilty for feeling empty.

They are games. The stakes are invented in our minds and the arguments are theater. But theater is art, and so are sports. The difference between binging Breaking Bad again this weekend and watching, say, YouTube videos of old games is that the art is in the unknown. It's in the originality of every second of the performance. Each and every time LeBron James brings the ball up court, something that has never happened before is going to occur. How can we replicate that?

My life for 32 years has, perhaps embarrassingly, been built around schedules. 

Can't go on vacation in March — the NCAA Tournament is then. So is the NFL's offseason. So is Opening Day. Sundays in the fall, forget about it. I am busy. Have to miss a Sixers or Flyers game for a wedding or a concert? I'll get by, I have my phone I can follow on Twitter or on the ESPN Score App.

Am I simply an addict going through withdrawal? Or am I terrified to embark on the first stretch of the last two centuries without my favorite distraction, obsession, hobby and livelihood?

It pains me to say that whatever it is, we are about to go through it together in the unknowing stretch ahead of us. 

Here at PhillyVoice, we'll do our best to try and decipher — like so many of my talented and dedicated colleagues out there — what exactly it is you want to read about, talk about and think about with everything we know "suspended."

Will we all learn something about ourselves without sports to set our clocks and our calendars to? Will we learn to appreciate it more when it comes back?

I have absolutely no idea what lies ahead, and perhaps that is the scariest thought. The schedules are out of date. Everything has been cancelled. ESPN has four networks and nothing to air.

And so, all I can really say in summation is please, be safe. Please make good decisions. I know it'll get worse before it gets better and I know sports are the least of our problems. 

And please, diabolical coronavirus, bring normalcy back soon.

Follow Evan on Twitter: @evan_macy

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