Sunday, March 15, 2020

A world without sports

My reflexive instincts told me that, on this particular Saturday afternoon in March, to turn on ESPN to catch somebody's – anybody's – college basketball tournament.

I've done that for as long as ESPN has been televising sports. Years. Decades. That's what sports junkies do.

That's all changed with the expanding coronavirus pandemic. Everything requiring a crowd has been canceled. No NBA. No MLB. No NCAA. No NHL. No NASCAR. No MLS. And, soon, no Masters.

We've entered a different kind of March Madness.

When I did turn on ESPN, I got 24-hour coverage of the Ultimate Fighting Championship: sweaty bald guys with beards and tats mostly wearing black boxing shorts and knocking the poop out of each other while using mixed martial arts.

Kinda like hockey without the puck.

But, no thanks. Not for me.

Curiously, my Spectrum guide was telling me this televised coverage was new, which suggested that if it wasn't actually live, it was recently taped and never aired before. And it was originating from Brasilia, Brazil. Odd. Wasn't President Trump recently photographed with a Brazilian presidential aide who ended up testing positive for coronavirus? Hmm.

Anyway, it looks like we're going to have to suck it up for a while. I suspect the MLB network will show endless loops of Field of Dreams and Major League ("The American Express card: Don't steal home without it.") and the Golf Channel endlessly airing Tin Cup and The Legend of Bagger Vance.
But I'm OK with that. Gives me options.

What I'm not getting is the vilification of the media in its pandemic coverage. Everything I know about coronavirus has come through the media. I know to wash my hands frequently with soap and water and to keep measured, social distancing in gathering places. Makes sense.

I have no fear of restaurants, which now might be the cleanest spots on Earth (which raises the question, why weren't they before this? Nobody I know of was disinfecting menus before this outbreak).

I don't see how the media is responsible for the tanking stock market. The stock market is capitalism at work, responding to the events of the day. That pretty much makes the virus a real concern. So is the shutting down of major leagues, collegiate sports and other entertainment options. There's big money out there, and even greedy capitalists don't want to endanger that cash cow, so they correctly err on the side of caution while taking in worst case scenarios. The media, to me, is serving its purpose by disseminating information from health care specialists and government officials. But it's a two-way street. It's up to us how we process that information. A case in point: No media outlet that I know of has suggested hoarding toilet paper for what is essentially a respiratory ailment. Where did that absurd panic come from?

Clever little memes on Facebook suggesting that the best cure for coronavirus is to shut down the media for several weeks smacks of fascism. Shutting down the media is really a way to keep the populace in ignorance.

The media is an easy, non-moving target and always has been. The media is historically a whipping boy for people looking for someone to blame. And yet, can you imagine a free society without a free press?

The pandemic (a designation as declared by the World Health Organization and not the media) will eventually play itself out, deadly enough as it apparently has been, especially for the older population. Maybe we should consider this event a practice run for the next pandemic, which could be even deadlier.

We really are in this all together. We ought to act like it.

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