With an event of the magnitude of the coronavirus epidemic, there is no facet of society that isn’t affected, and the it seems like there no aspect of our daily lives that hasn’t been transformed—and may never be the same. It’s not simply that we can no longer travel, or that the shops are closed. What other event has stopped us form attending church, or getting a haircut?
Of all these cascading consequences, rippling outwards from the point of impact, perhaps the most disconcerting for a country like Australia is the impact on sport. Watching footy matches played in front of empty stadiums, then not at all, has made it impossible to ignore the reality of the situation that might have seemed just another media exaggeration whose dire predictions would come to nothing in the end—think of the Y2k bug that was meant to send us into a new Stone Age.
More than a game
But, the complete absence of something that is an inescapable part of the fabric of our society—whether you actually enjoy it or not it’s all around you—has an immediate and personal impact that makes us sit up and take notice, and starts us thinking that this is different—that this is the real thing.
While there will be a huge economic impact from taking so many millions of dollars generated by sport, directly and indirectly, there will also be a social cost. For many people, watching or attending sporting events is what brings them together, and a common point of reference when searching for a place to start a conversation in any situation.
Everything is local
It may be the effects at the professional level that are the most immediately obvious, they are hard to miss. But it is the toll taken at a local level that is perhaps even more significant in the long run.
Sporting clubs are one of the last remaining communal experiences we have left in a society that has come to celebrate the individual above all, and there are thousands of amateur athletes who rely on them for a sense of connection to others who will suddenly find themselves without that support network. Also, for many communities, local sporting clubs are the hub they revolve around. Their absence will have a knock-on effect felt well beyond the lack of actual sport.
You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
Despite these struggles, it may be that when we come out the other side of this crisis there will be a positive to be found in all this. The crisis has already shown that the increasing focus on money is unsustainable, that the spiralling demands by players, sponsors and governing bodies were a house of cards one gust of wind away from collapse.
It may also serve as a reminder that sport is about more than just cheering for a team or getting some exercise, but plays a vital role in our lives. After all, it’s only when you have to live without something that truly understand just how much you relied on it.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html