Akins: The love of sports and value of their return

Call me melodramatic, emotional, theatrical, crack open a thesaurus and call me sensational if you’d like. But I felt shattered when the world started shutting down sports. Like, legitimate heartbreak. I’ve always considered myself to be a ‘bright-side’ kind of person, and that’s where I find myself now in regards to sports, but there are things that even now I still find myself missing.

I miss the feeling where being at the game means so much more than being at the game. The feeling of, try as I might, being completely unable to avoid bumping shoulders with the person to the left and right of me. Thousands of people on their feet, all packed in so close together that the assigned seating chart feels more like a loose suggestion than a requirement.

I miss the feeling of everyone in the venue making as much noise as physically possible; because they know it’s not every day where they get to be in a place where unbridled shouting matches are not only encouraged, but expected. I’ve never met the people around me, I’ve never even seen most of them. But for those two, three, four, however many hours, they feel like a group of friends that haven’t caught up in far too long. That feeling of sports fan comradery is such a unique experience, and I do wish I had that back right now. 

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I even miss the feeling of the small, borderline objectively bad stuff. I miss the feeling of walking into a stadium to be greeted by the overpowering smell of stale popcorn and the sound of peanut shells cracking under my shoes. I miss the feeling of coming home physically drained with a sore throat from screaming for hours on end like I had just given everything I had in battle, along with the players on the field. 

But what’s getting me through it right now is the knowledge that these feelings are not going anywhere. We don’t have them right now, during one of the most confusing times in recent history, when all I want from sunrise to sunset is a distraction. But that doesn’t mean they’ve left for good. It’s more like they’re taking a break, which leaves sports fans with two options.

The first one being, we can stay in that feeling of heartbreak. We can look at those feelings of being at a game, or even watching one at home, and think of them as the good ol’ days. The times when we had our favorite pastimes before we lost them without getting the chance to say goodbye.

Or rather than looking back, we can look forward. Look forward to the next time we can hear the ear-ringing scream of a packed stadium. Or the next time we get the pulse-pounding sensation of pacing back and forth in front of the TV while watching your favorite team because nothing in the world matters more than this game at this moment. Because those are the feelings we miss, but they’re coming right back. And when they do, it’ll be better than ever.

Every sport gets an offseason, even when the world isn’t turned upside down. That months-long stretch waiting for your favorite sport to return can feel like an eternity, but the wait is always made up by the feeling of opening day. When the anxiety you’ve built up waiting for the return had boiled over months ago, and you feel like you’ve been running on fumes to get back to the start of the season. That anticipation always feels like it’s building forever, but it always pays off. The return to sports worldwide is no different.

In fact, the only variant between the return of sports from the current pandemic and the return to sports after a long offseason is that the former is going to feel so much more exciting. Sports in the middle of a difficult stretch of life have always felt like a warm hug. Like a reminder that no matter how chaotic the world can feel, there will always be a place where you can find joy. Sometimes that warm feeling that sports can bring is easy to take for granted, but it’s always easier to appreciate after a break.

So right now, when everything feels at its most unexpected, remember the certainties that sports will bring at the other end of all of this. Those certainties would be great to have right now, but they’ll be back real soon. 

I promise.