Joanne O’Riordan: Ever decreasing circles leave me pining for sport’s return

Why am I so selfish when so many are going through so much

 

It has been an absolutely tumultuous start to 2020, to the point where I have informed those around me that I will be turning 24 in 2021 rather than this year.

The whole year has probably been cancelled by the time you get to read this column. But, since this is a sports column, after reading this maybe you will agree with this sentiment – life is boring, sad, scary and unpredictable; but it is absolutely okay to admit, out loud, that you miss sports.

A few days ago, I was sitting at home watching two flies face off on my wall. Usually, I would shoo them away, given how disgustingly gross they are, but this time I thought they could do something for me. I watched for what felt like hours as they started, in my view, to race up the wall in a battle that I was longing for. Eventually, the flies gave up and my will to live also gave up. I was officially that insane person my mother warned me to steer clear of when I was younger.

If you hadn’t guessed already, I miss sports. In fact, I miss it a lot. The thought of writing a corny column on what sport meant as I went to games with my father crossed my mind, but it really doesn’t matter. I just miss sports.

And that, I feel, is a desperate sin.

In the grand scheme of things, sport absolutely does not matter. Recent figures for Covid-19 suggest chaos and pandemonium everywhere and while looking around it’s clear those we worship on the pitch don’t come remotely close to those who are on the wards day in, day out. And as plenty of people worldwide are hunkered down in quarantine for the foreseeable future, I could understand why you would dismiss those crying out for sports. To paraphrase basketball coach Jim Howard: “Some things are bigger than sports.”

But throughout this period of quarantine, all I’ve been thinking about is various sporting things. Is it weird that during a life and death situation I’m concerned by the fact I may have taken Lionel Messi’s or Joe Canning’s genius for granted? Is it selfish of me to let my mind drift towards Cork GAA and Mayo GAA, wondering what sort of bad news story they are concocting to give us something to write about? Is it wrong of me to be curious about how the latest instalment of ladies football’s great Cork v Dublin rivalry would play out?

In fact, my first thought when this pandemic initially broke was how cricket or even baseball would thrive in an era of social distancing. Obviously, the game itself is played on a ginormous field with everyone spaced apart. Add to that, cricket fans are incredibly accustomed to whittling down the hours and locking themselves indoors during rain delays.

As my mind drifts in and out of the sporting world, I find myself cursing at myself. Why am I so selfish when so many are going through so much? Am I really that much of an idiot that I’d put two people kicking a ball, two people running in the spirit of competition ahead of people’s lives and livelihoods?

In reality, sports provides a respite from the bizarre goings-on in the outside world. It is a place many seek refuge in when they are feeling lost, isolated, alone, angry and upset. In fact, standing solo among 90,000 strangers for just over an hour can make you feel more acquainted with those you would usually never cross paths with.

As different parts of sport got cancelled, called off or postponed day-by-day, hour-by-hour, the disruption to everyday life was massive. No more structure and consistency in this new modern world. As everyone’s daily routine is now embedded into a 2km radius, the mundane days become exceptionally ordinary. And when that mundane becomes so unbearable, morale will drop, a sense of collective and belonging will also begin to fade. Worst of all, our mental health will then start to suffer, and after the pandemic, you would hope another epidemic consisting of isolated and lonely people won’t break our already broken mental health services.

We are now officially entering uncharted territory. It is now a world in which we must ask ourselves what truly matters. Are we prepared to admit that possibly sport is ingrained in the very ethos of our society? To be clear, I do understand there are more pressing issues, and unlike Bill Shankly, I wholeheartedly believe sports is not greater than life or death. These are terrifying times, and I’ll admit I’m scared.

So although I will bemoan the fact there are no sports for me to watch or talk about, I also get it is an inconsequential price to pay. It might be wrong to care about sports, but, boy, I can’t wait for the days where I can sit in my comfy beanbag and scream at my beloveds for ruining my life . . . for old time’s sake.

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