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Keith Strudler: What Sports Mean Right Now

I’m not going to lie. This is not going to be easy. It’s not going to be easy to write a sports commentary in the midst of what we’re all starting to come to terms with. I’m sure it’s not easy for you to care at all about sports right now. It’s not easy for me to care either, especially now that I’m splitting my time between my university administrative job that looks a whole lot different than it did a couple of weeks or and my new job of trying to make sure my 4th and 7th graders finish their school work without hurting each other. And I know I’m one the lucky ones, because for at least the time being, my household has stable employment and just enough space to set up a reasonable soccer goal in the backyard. That will keep us going for the foreseeable future, that an ongoing cocktail of streaming movies and news programming, a vacillation between blissful ignorance and unreasonable fear.

That said, I have the privilege of having 4 to 5 minutes every Wednesday to talk to as many of you who are willing to listen. And for the most part, I’m well versed at talking at length only about a couple of things – the TV show Magnum PI, both the original and the reboot, and sports. Which means that for the time being, I’m going to have to stick to sports – but not in the way that phrase has been used more critically in the last year or so.

So, over the course of the next several weeks, or months, or however long this lasts until we start playing again, I’ll figure out some way to try and connect the world of sport to the surreal landscape of today. I’m guessing I’ll do better some weeks than others. And I’ll always do it with the understanding that there’s really nothing I can talk about that’s more important than a global pandemic or the potential fallout that comes with it. At the very least, hopefully it’s a momentary diversion from whatever statistic or mandate that’s likely to constitute the remainder of this broadcast.

Which means that I might talk about things like Tom Brady leaving New England for Tampa Bay, and perhaps use some throwaway joke about how he’s just like every other senior citizen looking for better weather and lower taxes. I might talk about things are a bit closer to the pandemic, like the status of the Tokyo Olympics, or how baseball can handle an extended delay. That’s assuming I’m not too busy working on 4th grade math, which by the way is much harder than I remember.

But perhaps I’ll leave this commentary with two thoughts. First, at least for me, this period has actually highlighted the importance of sport in our world. While it may seem insignificant, and in many ways it is, but cancelling the NCAA Tournament and then the NBA and hockey and everything that came after it wasn’t just a reminder of where we are. It was also the loss of something we desperately need to feel even a bit normal. I still reflexively turn to ESPN every night expecting to see a live game. And if you have kids that play youth sports, you know how crushing the end of their seasons are. Not because the results matter, but because the games, the relationships, all the joy of the process – they do. And no amount of shooting the hoop in the driveway can replace all of that.

Second, even though talking about sports isn’t going to be the most important thing in the world right now, keeping semi-normal human relationships may just be, especially as we all find ourselves seeing fewer people every day. Now, I don’t see any of you, and you don’t see me. But at its core, we have a relationship. I’m honored to be able to talk with all of you every week – probably now more at home than in the car. Right now, that relationship helps me feel normal. And hopefully hearing a familiar voice on the air, especially one might talk more about the Knicks’ ineptitude than geopolitics, hopefully that helps you as well. So maybe for the time being, maybe this commentary is more coping mechanism than hot sports take.

You know, every now and then, I get an email from a listener, and I’m always grateful, since it means someone cared enough to listen and reach out, which takes some effort. Feel free to do that even more now, or as they say, hit me up on twitter. And feel free to ask me about sports. It may not be easy right now to talk about sports, but perhaps now we need it more than ever.

Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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