Dear Athletic Support: I’m sending this question to you exactly eight days before the election. I can’t help but wonder what role sports will play during these challenging times. A part of me feels like maybe they matter now more than ever. Like we need a distraction from all the craziness, and there’s nothing purer than athletics. It’s all so clear cut. There are winners and losers and scoreboards that display the outcome in numbers that cannot be manipulated. In a world of fake news, maybe we all just need some REAL sports. Even as I say all of this, though, I can’t help but feel like maybe sports don’t matter as much right now. My son’s playing what will probably be his last season of football (he’s a senior). And my daughter’s wrapping up her first year of school-sanctioned volleyball. Despite these milestones, I’m having trouble caring about their athletic careers as I would’ve in days gone past. I realize this is a heavier question than the ones people normally send in, but these are heavy times. I’m not sure what the world will look like by the time this question makes it to your desk; I just hope I’m still around to read your answer.
—Heavier Than Normal
Dear Heavier: Thank you, so much, for sending in such a thoughtful question. By nature of my publishing schedule, I’m also writing blind here. There’s no way for me to tell who’s won the election or what the world will look like on this particular Sunday, but I think you’re right…
We need sports.
Now, more than ever.
And this need goes deeper than just winning and losing. Sports have the power to bring us together. They’re the perfect metaphor for what our country so desperately needs right now. The beauty of sports is that most people realize it’s just a game. When the lights go off and the bleachers clear out, people go back to being friends.
Or at least that’s the way it should work. After the game is over, there shouldn’t be any hard feelings. That’s why we teach our kids to line up in the middle of the field or the court and shake hands afterward.
Whether or not your candidate won the election should not matter at this point. That particular game is over, and despite what the news is telling you — we’re all on the same team.
Let me repeat that: WE’RE ALL ON THE SAME TEAM.
And we need to start acting like it. We must come together like never before. Imagine if this really were some sort of sporting event. How would America fare as a team? All the infighting and bashing that we do to each other? We’d never win a game!
My hope — my prayer — is that we’ll take a page from the youth-sports playbook, realize the election is over, and all line up at midfield, ready to shake hands and put the past behind us.