I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got into hockey lately.
Partly, it’s because of this job. Telling people I’m a sports blogger now raises eyebrows for pretty much anyone who met me at any point before college. I studied public law and playwriting, a theatre kid and absolute nerd who had never expressed interest in team sports. I always have to explain, no, see, I was in the hospital a lot and had nothing better to do and, ah, fuck it, sports are really just theatre, aren’t they? and if I’m lucky, they get it, or at the very least pretend to, and we move on.
Which brings me to the other reason this has been on my mind lately: Selena Urban, the Sharks’ recent Make-A-Wish recipient, who said she became a Sharks fan by watching games with her family in the hospital. I’ve loved hearing her story because it’s familiar. Sports were there when she needed them. I know what that’s like.
Not everyone is going to have this kind of sports origin story. I’ve met plenty of people who came out of the womb as Red Wings fans who are only just now questioning the fact that they could’ve chosen a different team at any point and never did. Choosing a sport or a team isn’t always this big grand gesture.
But I do think many, if not most, of us can point to a moment where we’ve needed sports, for some reason or another. Maybe it’s as a distraction, or a community, a place to store your affections and obsessions. At one time, we’ve weighed our hearts against the success of our teams, shared in their wins and losses as if they were our own.
A team isn’t a team, it’s my team, it’s our team, it’s us, it’s we.
It’s an incredibly human thing, to find comfort in something as seemingly constant as sports. It’s human, too, to be crushed or at the very least confused when a seeming constant in life grinds to a halt.
I don’t necessarily need sports the way that I used to. I need them to exist, to do my job, and I get a lot of joy out of them, albeit in a bit more of a detached way than when I first dove into the world of sports. Sometimes — especially in those sports with an array of barriers to access — I find myself wanting a break from sports, even.
The break is here, and it’s scarier than I imagined.
Nearly the entire world of sports is on pause, while coronavirus becomes a global pandemic. Limiting our large gatherings is saving lives, making this is obvious decision, but that doesn’t make it an easy one to grasp.
We heard from the Sharks organization the other day about how the coronavirus is affecting all of them in some capacity. It’s everywhere, one of the few things in the world that could put all of sports on hold at every level, from local to international. Everyone is affected, because not only are sports this weird way that humans have found to engage with each other, but they’re entire massive industries.
Sure, some people might needs sports in more emotionally-driven ways. But an overwhelming number of people need sports in a much more tangible way. There are people who are now question when their next paycheck is coming because the arena they work in is closed, the industry they freelance to cover is on hold.
We woke up this morning in a world without sports and I’m not too big to admit that it’s scary. It’s surreal, and we don’t have a playbook for navigating this world where maybe we have to actually admit that we need sports, too.
I can’t pretend to have the answers. But what I know is that at some point I shifted from needing sports — or, needing hockey, needing the Sharks to do well for the sake of my own mental health — to needing y’all. To needing this site and this community to get me through. As much as the team is ours, this space is too.
We’ve all needed sports and at some point, we all needed the Sharks, specifically, and we wound up here, in a community driven by that common need. There are a lot of scared people in our community right now. If we can’t lean on sports, we have to be able to lean on each other.
For today, let’s talk. Whether that’s about the fears coronavirus has brought you personally, or the story about the time that you needed sports, or ideas to get us through the next few weeks, or please for the love of god show me your pets because I’m not allowed to have one in my apartment and I need the distraction.
Let’s teal together right now, because for the moment, that’s what we’ve got.