Say what you want about professional sports… some of you reading this believe that pro sports are a waste. To be completely transparent, when it comes to the NBA, NFL, NHL, and the MLB, I’m no addicted fanatic. Call me a fair-weather fan, or a bandwagon rider… I’m OK with either label. I can own my lukewarm commitment to the home team.

That said, I’ve found myself a lot more excited than I expected to have sports come back… surprisingly so. Even with the empty stands and the pumped-in crowd noise, there’s something about having baseball, basketball, and hockey back.

It just feels good… 

There’s something about seeing the perfectly clipped green grass and dirt of a major league ballpark and hearing the crack of a bat. It takes me back to being a 12-year-old kid playing summer baseball at the field down the street. I’m reminded of those nights when things were innocent and we played pick-up hoops on the net-less courts until the street lights came on. We were kids, just carefree. So different from what things feel like today.

The return of the pros – Lebron and Tiger, Sidney and Mookie – has taken on something more significant for me today. We’ve transitioned past nets and rims, pucks and sticks, bats and gloves. Right now, more than ever, the restart of these pro leagues has a different feel. It feels more important than ever, not just to me, but to the world. Here’s why…

Sports are bringing back a little normal in a time that feels anything but… Let’s face it – the last handful of months have felt nothing like normal. It’s been a long time since anything was routine or ordinary. And then, as if out of nowhere, you turn on your TV and there’s an NHL game or major league soccer. And in that moment, for just a moment, you forget that there’s a pandemic creeping around outside your doors. Yes, COVID-19 will still be there tomorrow, but we can turn it off and enjoy some of that normal we’ve been missing for just a little while.

Sports are an escape, helping distract us from all the negativity in the air… The negativity, from the election cycle to who’s wearing masks and who isn’t, has been suffocating. Being able to turn on a basketball game or Sunday afternoon golf tournament represents a welcome opportunity to silence all the negativity – if just for a moment. Instead of being aligned to the Dems or the GOP, we become the Wild and Twins, the Loons and Lynx. (Yes, I’m writing this from Minnesota.) 

Sports are keeping us on the edge of our seats… For months, we’ve been watching reruns of past games. It’s been like watching the movie The Titanic – interesting to watch, but we already know how the story’s going to end. The comeback of pro sports represents the return of a little surprise in lives that now consist of walking downstairs to get to work, and then repeating it all again tomorrow. On any given night, there’s a chance that our favorite athletes will have a breakout performance, or an underdog will shine. These scripts haven’t been written yet, and we’re able to watch them unfold in real-time. 

Sports are continuing to shine a light on conversations about race and equality… Across the leagues, conversations about social justice have etched themselves onto the courts and the fields. Players have platforms, and the leagues have a responsibility. Both are using their voice and those opportunities to keep these meaningful conversations moving forward. In many respects, sports has transcended what is typically in-bounds, bringing real issues to centercourt for all of us to encounter.

The Takeaway

Athletes shouldn’t be put on pedestals, and these sports won’t solve our problems. The NBA and the NHL won’t eliminate the issues we’re all facing right now. But they can, if just for a brief moment, help us cope with the challenges we’re all living through. Together, we can cheer for the home team, rising and falling with one another as games ebb and flow. And in those moments, together, we can drop the division and enjoy some distraction. That, on its own, is enough for right now.