Courtside: In an election year, a nonideal sports shutdown comes at an ideal time

Early on in the shutdown of the sports world, I spent many of my waking hours trying to find a silver lining. I struggled. 

But over the course of approximately the last week, I found it, and since I did, it has become more and more painfully obvious with each passing day.

I’ve noticed a number of ways fans have tried to fill this gaping hole left in our hearts by the lack of sports. Rewatching old classics, intense gaming and indoor 3-point contests with toilet paper and a laundry hamper are some. 

That’s all good and well. But don’t miss this opportunity to pay closer attention to some of the things that will have a much wider and longer-lasting impact on our world than the suspension of the NBA, delay of MLB or cancelation of NCAA spring competition. That is, flip off ESPN’s Slippery Stairs broadcast (which, I admit, is entertaining), and flip on the news. 

You know — the news that talks about the whole global pandemic thing that caused this societal shutdown in the first place, how many lives it has claimed and will likely claim in the near future, what scientific and social strategies have been taken around the world to flatten the curve — not the news that quibbles over which team Jameis Winston will throw 80 interceptions for next year or what number his (washed) successor will wear on the road to his couch to watch the playoffs.

More specifically, flip on the type of news that, if you’re paying any attention, reaffirms time and time again how much the current administration here in America lacks both the decency and the brains to properly deal with this crisis. 

Think about the asymptomatic NBA players that have been tested for the virus while your average American citizen with anything short of life-threatening symptoms can’t. Think about the fact that we don’t have enough masks or respirators to protect the healthcare workers risking their lives to treat the sick. Think about the fact that these exact fucking problems were predicted by a mock epidemic conducted by experts and former officials in May 2018, the same month President Donald Trump blew up a National Security Council unit specifically intended to prepare for the threat of a pandemic because, evidently, that threat seemed minimal. Oops!

Think about the fact that the president was asked by a reporter how to calm the anxieties of Americans rightfully terrified by the outbreak — quite possibly the easiest question a president can answer in times like these — to which he responded, “You’re a terrible reporter … I don’t call it ‘Comcast,’ I call it ‘Concast.’”

Think about the fact that South Korea and the United States each had their first reported confirmed case on Jan. 20, and that one of those countries has mitigated the spread of the virus about as effectively as physically possible, while the other country is the United States.

If everything must be framed within the context of sports, fine: They’re playing baseball again in South Korea.

I miss sports incredibly. The other day I filled out a hypothetical March Madness bracket and used a random number generator to simulate the entire tournament. I’ve watched the 2019 and 2018 Philadelphia Phillies video yearbooks on YouTube the last two days, and I plan to watch the 2017 one shortly after I finish writing this column. 

I’ll do whatever I can to approach my necessary daily sports fix, and you should too — but don’t get sucked in. Don’t let it prevent you from tuning in to the other things that matter. You’ve been sitting on your ass for the last week because that’s essentially all you’re legally allowed to do. You miss sports and no matter how many 1993 NBA playoff games you watch, you’ll still miss sports. Accept this reality. Watch the news.

If there was ever a good time for the suspension of sports due to a global pandemic (there’s not), it’s now. This administration has failed its people often for the last three years, but what better time to notice that most glaringly than right before we have the chance to replace it with a new one?!

The failures of President Trump and his cabinet are on full display right before our very eyes. They’re really not trying to hide them — or at least, they aren’t doing a very good job at it — and we have no sports to give us an excuse not to pay attention.

If this doesn’t spur the political participation that our country is so clearly lacking, I really don’t know what will.

For the time being, sports are gone, and that sucks. But meanwhile, the response to the crisis by our president — which sucks even more — continues to reveal the glaring shortcomings within the current administration, and the absence of sports is giving us a perfect opportunity to realize them. I hope you take advantage of that.

Nathan Ackerman is a sophomore writing about sports and sociopolitics. He is also an associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Courtside,” typically runs every Friday.

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