We're in what feels like day 7,249 of the Covid-19 pandemic quarantine right now, and life as we've known it has officially been flipped upside down. Kids and parents are trying to keep their heads above water in this new era of crisis homeschooling, Zoom conference calls, exorbitant grocery bills, endless unemployment phone lines, and odd social distancing interactions void of any meaningful human connection. It's exhausting. Completely and utterly exhausting.
And then you read that Baltimore Oriole Trey Mancini has stage III colon cancer, and suddenly you realize life could in fact be much more exhausting, the universe could be throwing you a much worse curve ball, and in all actuality, you're pretty damn lucky to feel the crazy, stressful work-life exhaustion that you do. It's a gift afforded to the healthy.
Reading about Trey (you know, because we're real life friends and all.... We're not. But, I did meet him at a spring training Q and A two years ago though and he seems just as amazing in person as one would expect. Humble, hard working, and handsome, the true triple threat.) not only puts the whiny "whoa is me" attitude to shame, it also reminds me just how much I miss baseball, and all sports right now, and I know I'm not alone.
There is a deep loneliness behind the masks of social distancing we're all feeling in this #AloneTogether scenario. We miss the normal social interactions of every day life. We miss impromptu dinners with friends, we miss the gym and our fellow gym rats, we miss watching and playing live sports. We miss life as we knew it, and that's okay. We can grow into anew and still miss the comforts of our past.
As an athlete, my training regime is different. There's less equipment, less space. It's a time to break it down to basics. With races now off in the distant, unknown, future, there is now time to go back to build the foundation stronger, wider, more robust. That is a gift I might have forgotten to open if I still had access to my squat rack right now, I admit.
As a coach, I see the strain in my athletes that these new confines have formulated. The ability to find a work-life balance seems non-existent when 'work' and 'life' now share the same mental and physical space. They miss the clarity and community that came with training partners and competition. The markers of their identity are being tested, measured in new, unprecedented ways. "Who am I without my sport?" has been asked many times over. Especially the runners- already among one of the most isolating sports, the walls have come in on them even closer, suffocating them a times, liberating them in others. Their tribe still present in spirit, yet distant in ways that bring forth collective energy and focus. We are all working to find a new way of training, living, being. It is a process, and we're learning on the fly.
As a fan, I miss the thrill, the anticipation, the excitement of what is to come that live sports offer. The not knowing the outcome, that may be one of the biggest pieces to it all. Right now the days seem so predictable. Filled to the brim, and overflowing at times, but predictable just the same. Sports gives us something fresh, unknown, and that is beautiful.
And then there's the distraction of sports. Perhaps a component so ingrained in our psyche that we aren't even aware of how much we crave it; like that morning cup of coffee that fits so snug in our routine we don't know how much we need it until we unexpectedly run out. The ability to go to the field, or turn on the tv, and for a few hours fully immerse ourselves in a world of super human feats. A space void of the mounting pile of laundry, work presentations due next week, or financial strains evident on our bank statements. It's a space of freedom that comes with being part of a captive audience. And it is oh so liberating for the moments you have it.
So when we wonder, "What exactly is it that we miss so much about sports?", the answer I believe is, it's all of it, and then some. It's the structure, the identity, the entertainment, and we simply cannot wait until the day, hopefully soon, when we can train hard on Wednesday, compete on Saturday, and then kick back on Sunday and watch Mancini hit a walk off home run at Camden Yards to win big against the Yankees. I promise never again to take sport for granted, because now I know what it is to miss it. And do I ever.