By Nicholas Bruce
It’s been said that sport is the most important thing of the least important things. This has been evident throughout the pandemic. In early March, when a massive lockdown of the world’s population was ominous, sport rightfully took a back seat. It still does, but few can argue that the world needs sport for all the reasons we already know. None more so than a mental break from the world dread-lines. I mean, headlines. Ever so slowly, sport is surfacing again. Last week saw the re-start of European football leagues, and next month, North American sport leagues like basketball, soccer and hockey are slated to jump start with fan-friendly tournaments.
Mentally, it can feel like we can’t hold out much longer. Us, human beings need to keep being humans. We want to be something bigger. That’s why we join as players on a squad. Why we are fans of a team. Why we cheer and root, holler and whistle. We need sport. And the feeling is reciprocal. Sport needs us fans.
Due to health restrictions, professional athletes are playing in front of empty stands, wrapped in team banners or altered by a computer-generated image of spectators. Matches played behind closed doors have the feel of a movie scene acted out in front of a green screen. The players’ grunts and yells echo across the field instead of being drowned out by tens of thousands of cheers. So yes, we need sport. But sport needs us. “Bring it back, it can’t come any sooner,” one soccer player said of the crowds. It will still be a good while before that is safe, however.
During covid, sport has been struck with a heavy dose of humility. The athletes are not listed as everyday essential workers of society. Those who are – delivery persons, medical workers, cleaners, among countless others – are used to humbly working hard with no spectators, behind closed doors, often away from any folks who appreciate them.
Now, sport is picking itself up off the field of play, re-assessing their place in society. The players themselves are recognizing their role with truthful words to a prime minister to reverse his decision on eliminating food vouchers for the most vulnerable people. That was Manchester United player Marcus Rashford to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. You also won’t see Rashford sewn across the back of his jersey. It will read Black Lives Matter. For him, his teammates, every player in Premier League. For the rest of the season.
These are small steps and big decisions. It just feels good to have sport in our lives again. Our mental health is better with sport and we welcome it back in our lives. Sport, and the pro athletes, will one day, hopefully sooner than later, welcome us back as well.
In the same way, Cuncani needs soccer and we are adjusting our Kick-off project to go back, soon.