By Lenn Robbins/An editorial by The New York Extra,Editor – in- Chief
COVID-19 is a thief.
It has no conscience, no empathy. It will steal the most precious heirlooms – family and health – if we allow it.
Already it has stolen all of our spring conference tournaments, the NBA, the NHL, Spring Training, and pushed back Opening Day, soccer and tennis matches. You name a sporting event, chances are it’s gone for the foreseeable future.
“I’ve got to tell you, it breaks my heart,” Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said Thursday after canceling her conference tournament midway through the St. John’s-Creighton game. “This is the greatest college basketball tournament ever. But we respect the decision of authorities. We’re very mindful about what’s happening nationally. We do not want to be imprudent as it relates to the safety of our participants and our fans.
“And it’s terrifying, frankly, what’s evolving here as the science and the assessments of the science are progressing. And I don’t think any of us know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
It was disheartening to turn on the TV at 7:00 p.m. and not to choose between the ACC and Big East tournaments.
It was jarring to receive texts from my Rutgers students asking what would comprise the midterm exam now that there is no Selection Sunday to cover.
It was surreal walking into my CVS and seeing empty shelves where there had once been five brands of toilet paper.
And yet all of us can be the lucky ones.
As I passed a neighborhood schoolyard, I saw a father and his junior high school aged daughter shooting hoops. A couple of friends played ping pong. A group of grade school kids played pickup basketball. Couples and families and friends strolled to the rhythm of their own laughter.
It is not the fault of COVID-19 that we have been increasingly isolated by the greatest communication tool in history – the Smartphone.
It is not the fault of COVID-19 that streaming has replaced conversation at the dinner table.
It is not the fault of COVID-19 that texting is replacing talking as the favorite means of communication for teenagers.
COVID-19 can push us further apart or we choose to draw closer together.
We can mourn the loss of sports, or we can try to help low-wage workers whose income is dependent on taking tickets or serving hot dogs or cleaning arenas.
We can mourn a spring without NCAA and conference tournaments, or we can support all of the seniors who will miss a chance to make a priceless memorial.
We can the mourn the possibility that we might have witnessed the end of some of our favorite professional athlete’s career or we can hold on to the memory of the joy they provided.
This is what we can make sure COVID-19 doesn’t take. As social animals, we need each other. We need compassion and empathy. We might not be able to congregate in large numbers but we can offer large and open hearts.
Many around the world have lost friends and family. COVID-19 will take more lives. It will take more sports. But it can’t take our souls. That’s worth any sacrifice we have to make.