THE SOUND OF SILENCE.

AuthorZirin, Dave
PositionEDGE OF SPORTS

In May, sportswriter Jane McManus tweeted that "sports are the result of a functioning society," a comment quickly echoed by others. It is only when you can clothe and feed yourself, when you're not trying to stave off rampant disease, that you can think about the many uses for round, spherical, and oblong objects.

Our society at present is not functioning. We have an out-of-control pandemic, with a quarter million deaths as of presstime, many millions more who have lived through infection, and eight million people who have moved into poverty in the last year as the economy has been wrecked.

Students are learning at home and illness stalks the healthiest among us. We are sick, divided, and decaying. By Mc-Manus's theorem, there should be no sports. Instead, we should be single-mindedly focusing on controlling COVID-19.

And yet, the games have somehow gone on, albeit in a profoundly distorted form. We have had basketball, football, baseball, tennis, golf, soccer, and NASCAR races take place with no fans, holograms for fans, cardboard cutouts for fans, or a smattering of real people that only draw attention to how few are actually in the seats.

Sports are taking place in a scenescape that looks post-apocalyptic, against the fevered, caffeinated energy coming from the announcers. Crowd noise is piped into the stadiums to give television viewers the impression of normalcy, but it's usually more disquieting than comforting. It often sounds like a white noise machine that plays at the same pitch no matter what is happening on the field.

According to a recent Marist College study, 46 percent of sports fans are watching fewer games. Ratings are down dramatically. Leagues are enacting layoffs. And the reason is not that sports have gotten "too political"--a common accusation from the right--but because the social fabric of sports has been frayed by the Coronavirus.

There are, thank goodness, fewer folks going to people's houses and meeting in bars to watch games. There's no tailgating outside of stadiums. There is no connectivity with family. Watching sports--the closest thing we have to a national language--in isolation doesn't satisfy the consumer because there is little appeal in talking to yourself.

Yet the sports...

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