And it got me thinking.
I don’t want to sound like a sappy sports movie, because Americans are still as divided as ever and sports can’t suddenly change that — but as we begin to reach toward a semblance of normalcy in the coming months, I wonder if sports might give us an excuse to offer one another a little more grace.
I doubt the Kansas City liberals I grew up with and exurban Trump supporters in Missouri will set aside their differences if our fabled quarterback Patrick Mahomes wins another M.V.P. award at the end of this season.
But once the economy can safely, fully open, perhaps sports can supercharge our sense of community again.
I can’t wait to return to John Brown Smokehouse in Queens, without my mask, to watch a Chiefs game next season over K.C.-style barbecue and beer. When I get there, will I appreciate my surroundings a bit more? Leave my phone alone and strike up an extra conversation? Embrace a stranger with more gusto after a touchdown? I think so. And no one should underestimate the strength “our bonds of affection” can have after a compatriot unlike yourself buys you a drink.
After all, I’ve had more than enough reason to look inward, frown or be upset this year.
In the summer of 2021, when many hope vaccinations will be widespread, we may all turn our eyes to Tokyo for an Olympics unlike any before. Historically the world’s great unifying sporting event, its coming together of young talent and old nations will take on a new meaning, as the globe quite literally reunites.
We’ll watch as athletes, perhaps without masks and in close proximity, some of them coronavirus survivors, march together, united in sport and struggle. If we pull it off, I expect the world will heave a collective sigh of relief.
Will we see sports differently after that? On the other side of this coronavirus misery, it may turn out that sports — which have predominantly functioned as cherished but inessential extensions of leisure — are recognized as more spiritually essential than we realized. And sporting competition, as old as society itself, may be remembered as the first manifestation of a world reborn and liberated.
Aaron Randle, previously a Metro reporter at The New York Times, writes about New York and national affairs.
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