Literary critic George Steiner once said, “There is something terribly wrong with a culture inebriated by noise and gregariousness.” Whatever one might think of this COVID era, it has certainly reduced the clamor of everyday life to the point where we’ve been forced to look at things with a new appreciation. I’ve spent months of my life each year drunk on the peaks and valleys of the various sports seasons I’d follow.

However, I’ve grown accustomed to the deafening silence of the American sports scene as spring turned to summer. I went through all five stages of grief when they shut down the NCAA basketball tournaments in March before I made it out the other side.

The first stage was Denial, the certainty that no one would so callously cancel a season just as teams got ready to reap the rewards of a long schedule. The second was Anger, where I steamed that the N.Y. Knicks’ late-season surprise surge to the NBA championship was thwarted. I moved on to Bargaining, hoping that if they could at least start football on time I was willing to sacrifice all the other sports seasons until next year (especially that confusing thing referred to as “e-sports”). From there, I struggled with Depression as it became clear that wrestling and MMA fighting would return to normalcy long before we were allowed to boo the Jets in person again. Finally, I reached Acceptance somewhere around July that sports as we knew it would be shelved until 2021.

Then, faster than the Mets closers can give up a late-inning lead, sports were back. In fact, the crowded calendar was every sports nut’s dream: within the last two weeks alone, baseball, boxing, NASCAR and horse racing fans were all able to cheer on their respective favorites. Even better, tennis fans got the US Open, golf fans got their own US Open, and basketball fans got the WNBA and NBA playoffs while hockey skated toward the Stanley Cup. Football fans got to celebrate the return of NCAA and NFL football while college basketball just announced they’ll be open for business next month. Also, people are still playing soccer, apparently (adorbs)!

I’m not quite sure how to react to this flood of sports programming. My wife got used to seeing me reading on Saturday and Sunday afternoons rather than screaming at the TV on every bad call. My happiness was no longer held hostage to whether Notre Dame managed to eke out a win. I got used to the idea that the Mets, Knicks, Giants and Liberty would not (could not) finish last.

It was nice.

As the noise and gregariousness of sports returns, so does the distraction that makes sports so attractive; they provide a welcome respite from the stress of everyday life. Of course, that distraction is a dangerous luxury when so many issues still need to be addressed in our country. George Steiner would probably join my wife in calling for moderation as we line up in front of our TVs to root for our favorite teams. Luckily, we won’t have to shout to be heard over the Mets fans celebrating a win anytime soon.

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