Time Magazine named former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and California Senator Kamala Harris as their joint People of the Year for 2020. Next year, they are expected to become the next U.S. President and Vice President, respectively, because they won the U.S. Presidential Election last month.
While Biden and Harris are certainly very influential figures in the United States (and will soon be for the world as well if they aren’t already), I think the most influential thing of 2020 is the coronavirus pandemic. It has changed our lives permanently. Planning on going to Rosebar Lounge to hang out with your friends in D.C.? That’s not happening for a very long time (and Rosebar’s site is down by the way). Want to go to an NBA game? Fat chance in the nation’s capital!
And that leads me to my main point. How do we balance the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 300,000 Americans due to many reasons, and our fandom for professional sports, most notably for the Washington Wizards? After all, the Wizards are beginning the 2020-21 NBA season as the pandemic unleashes its fury on the nation from Thanksgiving travel last month.
It’s something I have struggled with since last March when the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended. At first, I had hope that our initial lockdowns would keep things under control. However, the economy opened up too soon in the late spring, creating a summer surge. While death rates have gone down since last March, the cases and deaths kept creeping up since last fall, because face masks are a political issue in this country.
The impact of the virus has also exacerbated other issues the United States has not addressed head on yet, including the gaps between the rich and poor, or the systemic racism that racial and ethnic minorities, especially African Americans in particular still face today.
And if all that weren’t enough, these issues all came during a federal election year where the Presidential race, Congressional seats and many other local races were being decided. While Biden won the election, it is still disputed by a significant group of people. And we had marches in D.C. protesting that yesterday.
When all of these things are going on in the middle of a pandemic and civil unrest, it’s just difficult to put on a happy face and stick to sports. Before the pandemic, I was a “shut up and stick to sports” person. God bless the athletes who are playing this year given the circumstances.
But this year, it’s just hard to stick to sports. Really, it’s impossible at the moment when we can expect more than 3,000 Americans to die a day because of the coronavirus. The NBA’s (and especially the WNBA’s) athletes have been more active than ever for social and political causes. It’s hard to ignore that.
And yet, we’re just supposed to ... watch the Wizards play — and hope no one gets sick over the next couple of months until a vaccine comes around?
I received some messages criticizing me “going dark” or going more political than I have in the past. I appreciate the feedback, whether it’s positive, and more importantly, when it’s negative. But again, these are dangerous times, and we cannot be aloof to that.
As for the title of this piece, if you’re wondering how we should balance sports vs. the coronavirus, I think you know where I’m leaning. We have to focus a good amount of our energy on COVID-19 until this thing gets under control, hopefully by next summer when vaccines can reach most people.
Of course, we will going to report on the games as they happen, including tonight when the Wizards play the Brooklyn Nets. And for these articles, we’ll stick to the plays barring something out of this world. But I hope you can understand that this is something that I especially am struggling with — and I make no attempt to hide it because I don’t think I’m alone, even though I think I am sometimes.
I’m not sure how to end this piece, but I hope you understand that we’re in a difficult situation with our society given the pandemic. I think we’ll come out ahead, but that moment won’t happen in the immediate term.