In search of sports

Desperate attempts to find gratification. 

Searching for sports in a sport-less world. — Photo Illustration by Lexi Pline

The cupboard is bare. No sports in the paper, no sports on TV, no sports in the gyms and stadiums. No sports arguments, no sports drama, no sports angst. No throwing objects at the television, no screaming at umps and refs, no hiding your eyes in tense moments…no tense moments.

No race to the playoffs in pro hockey and basketball, no 64-team brackets, no Tiger watch at Augusta…no Opening Day. What has always been the busiest, most exciting sports season — spring — has been wiped clean, as if submerged in a vat of Purell.

Off-the-field events do not satisfy the craving for live action. Tom Brady to Tampa? Sad. Mookie to L.A.? Bummer. Possible Celtics/Lakers final? I guess.

What deep needs do sports satisfy in us? Why do we become emotionally attached to teams and players? These questions are beyond my scope and irrelevant to the crisis at hand. The important query: Where can we find relief? 

The following represents one desperate sports fan’s attempts to achieve visceral gratification — or a facsimile thereof — through alternative experiences. Alert: Exclamation points are bogus and are intended only to suggest the alternate experiences are actually working, which they aren’t.

The Iditarod! Did you know that this 975 mile sled-dog race is unfolding across the barren wilderness of Alaska as we speak? The race extends from Anchorage in the south to Nome in the northwest corner of the state and includes 22 checkpoints along the way. At last look, Tom Waerner of Norway came through Shaktoolik on his way to Koyuk with a seven-hour lead on Alaska’s own Brent Sass, who was stuck in Unalakleet. You won’t know the mushers, but the dogs are adorable.

Computer-game basketball! You can create your own players from scratch or incorporate favorite players from the past. When I tried this with my grandsons five years ago I had Larry Bird running into the stands with the ball and Bill Russell leaping up and down at mid-court for no apparent reason. Turns out I haven’t improved.

Rugby Union! This historic league involves six UK nations and countless geographic rivalries. The competition draws passionate crowds who…Oops. Season cancelled due to virus.

Snooker! (Sounded like a bodily emission so I skipped it.)

Mini-curling! This table-top parlor game was a gift from my wife and has many realistic features, including authentically shaped curling stones. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to play while maintaining nine-foot separation from your opponent.

Old sports videos! This option has real possibilities and can deliver emotional reward. Every time I see Malcolm Butler pick off Russell Wilson at the goal line I leap from the couch and shout “Yes!” Problem is, nothing new or surprising happens in vintage videos.

One-bounce-tennis-ball-into-waste-basket! One of the many games my mother taught us when we claimed to be bored. The concept is simple: players take turns trying to put the ball into a waste basket positioned six to eight feet away on one bounce. Fun for a while, then…boring. 

Make-believe! Here’s Palmer up the right side with the puck, now cutting through center ice and picking up speed…he splits the Canadien defense and moves in alone on Jacques Plante. Palmer dekes to his left and pulls the puck to his right side…he shoots…he SCORES…Palmer has scored. He beats Plante with a spectacular backhander to give the Bruins a…huh?… what? … where am I? …what happened?…

Solitaire.