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Prep sports: Anything but normal right now

Normally, this would be the place where I usher you, dear reader, into the comfortable embrace of another spring sports season in the Sauk Valley.

Normally, we’d be getting ready for the ping of aluminum bats and thump of baseballs and softballs hitting gloves. The back-and-forth action of a tennis match. The thwack of a cleat kicking a soccer ball into the net. The crowd noise slowly building to a crescendo as the runners near the finish line in a neck-and-neck race on the track.

And normally, I’d be downright giddy for the NCAA basketball tournament, as the first 2 days of March Madness is argualbly my favorite time of the year for sports on TV.

But this spring is anything but normal.

Instead of making copies of NCAA brackets or scheduling which games we’re going to cover on opening day, as I would have normally done after my shift designing this sports section on Sunday night, I headed home with more questions than answers about the future of the spring sports season.

Of course, even though sports has been my life for the past 20 years, I can honestly say that for the first time since – well, since college, probably – that sports isn’t necessarily the first thing on my mind.

I have to say, the worst part of this coronavirus uncertainty is worrying about my 73-year-old mother and 102-year-old grandmother back in Iowa City, wondering if this new COVID-19 will stay away from my family, as well as my friends and their children and parents and families.

I get how important and necessary all the precautions that we’re talking are, especially when I’m thinking about my loved ones. But that doesn’t keep me from missing the end of a truly scintillating college basketball season, or the beginning of another season of baseball, softball, boys tennis, girls soccer, and track & field in the Sauk Valley.

There can be room for both of those things: dismay and worry about this new sickness spreading like wildfire around the globe, and the dismay and longing for sports, which have been an integral part of my life as far back as my memory stretches (and even further than that, as my memory ain’t what it used to be).

In pondering this unprecedented series of events the other day, I was left wondering if my job as a sports writer would be the same after all of this (hopefully) blows over.

Would people still care about sports if this global pandemic stretches on for the forseeable future? Does this job serve any purpose redeemable to society with so many other important – and scary and confusing – things going on in the world?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that sports is certainly a necessary diversion in this landscape. Sports is a beautiful way to escape from all of those confusing, scary, difficult situations like the one we’re all dealing with right now.

Sports, for all its thrills and excitement and memorable moments, has one quality that I’ll never understimate: it brings people together.

And really, isn’t that something we could all use a little bit of right now?

So here’s hoping that this new virus runs its course – or at least we get to the point where we can contain it and treat it – in time to let the ballplayers and tennis players and soccer players and runners, throwers and jumpers compete in the sports they’ve put so much energy and effort into during the offseason, preparing for another spring.

Here’s hoping the seniors get their chance to finish out their high school athletic careers on the diamonds and courts and fields and tracks instead of in their homes while under quarantine.

Here’s hoping that we can kick this virus and create a vaccine and find a cure, and that we can all get back to “normally” sooner rather than later.

But most of all, here’s hoping that we all stay safe and healthy, and we can watch our favorite baseball, softball, tennis, soccer and track & field teams compete again in the near future.

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