Why sports have strengthened us for these times
It's the tough times that allow us to truly appreciate the good times.
It's not easy to write about sports when the games seem a distant memory, except for those played in cyberspace and requiring a joystick, or maybe the simple board game on the kitchen table.
Those are fun, but they're not the same as the games played on a court, field or ice.
There are always issues to write about, many being settled in the wrong kind of court, where the books cite precedents, not records.
But it's not what we're really here for. The games are, after all, the whole point of the exercise. That's where the real action is.
It's the way we miss college sports when March Madness ends, leaving us months to wait for the college football season to begin again.
The NFL draft and free agency can only take us so far. ESPN can spread out "The Last Dance" over a series of Sundays, but there are few cliffhangers in a documentary of a championship NBA team. We watch in awe as Michael Jordan does the impossible over and over again, but the games are never the same when you know the outcome.
We can argue over whether the Cubs have enough pitching, the White Sox have all the pieces in place or whether the Bulls' new management team has the right stuff. We shake our heads in surprise over how the Blackhawks are rebuilding.
But it's all talk, no action. We are interested, but then the craving returns for fresh competition.
With so many leagues shown on so many channels, we've come to expect nearly nonstop games. Instead we see the need for competition, for action, every day in our neighborhoods.
We see it in the old coach earning his steps every day at a good pace, making sure he can still keep up with his young athletes when the green light comes to get back on the practice field.
We see it in the up-and-coming athlete, for lack of access to modern equipment, building his body the old-fashioned way.
We see it in the former athlete, re-creating the way he got his start as a youngster by hitting a ball at a square of tape on the side of his childhood home.
We hear it in the voices of the coaches who miss their teams, their words cracking with emotion.
We hear it in the voices of the athletes who miss their teammates and yearn for memories they will never get a chance to earn on the court, in the locker room or on the bus.
We are ready to bust loose of these bonds we are asked to obey, but we remember how sports teach us discipline. We remember that sports can be about sacrificing oneself for the good of the team.
We remember how sports teach us character and that sometimes we just have to persevere.
We rise and shine with each new day, pounding the pavement in our neighborhoods, waving to our friends from a safe distance, keeping ourselves ready for when the games bloom again like plants poking through the ground in the spring.
When the games eventually come back, no matter how long it takes, we'll be ready. As tough as these monotonous days and weeks are, you better believe we'll appreciate the games when they return.