Losing stinks, but at least it feels normal

It’s obvious that sports haven’t been our biggest concern in 2020.

Ever since we realized how serious the COVID-19 pandemic was, the thing that’s been on our minds, above all else, is when this nightmare will be over.

When is the vaccine going to come? How effective will it be? How will we distribute it? What can we do to stop the spread in the meantime? Is all of this an overreaction?

It’s not that sports have been pushed aside completely during all the madness. The issue of basketball, hockey, baseball and football getting back to business has been another storyline in the world’s most intense soap opera.

But relative to the rest of the problems society is facing, sports are hardly uber alles.

As the games have resumed, starting with baseball in late July, I’ve personally felt a lot of the benefits that come with being a fanatic. I was overjoyed at getting to watch my favorite team of all, the Pittsburgh Pirates, take the field, regardless of how badly they’d end up getting slaughtered over the next three hours. The Steelers have started 9-0, so nothing to bitch about there.

The one place where I’ve felt the great pain that is the most serious side effect of sports fandom comes from an unexpected source— Penn State football.

For the first time since I was about a year removed from diapers, the Nittany Lions are 0-4, and that sucks just as badly as it sounds. Where I take comfort, however, is that, for the first time since the pandemic started, I’m upset about something that feels normal.

I didn’t really feel that with the Pirates. I knew they’d be bad, and hey, Kumar Rocker is ours. I sure as hell don’t feel that with the Steelers, and, not to long ago, I didn’t think I’d be feeling it with Penn State. First, because I didn’t think the Big 10 would be playing football this year, and second because I didn’t think Penn State would be bad. Hell, these bums were in the top 10 just a month ago.

As badly as I want Penn State to win again— one game will do at this point— it’s nice to spend my Saturday afternoon’s thinking about Sean Clifford instead of Anthony Fauci. About college football instead of vaccines. About James Franklin losing instead of Donald Trump losing.

There will always be more important things in life than sports, especially for those like me who don’t play, coach or operate a team, and this year, that’s more obvious than ever. But it’s nice to be upset about something you’re used to being upset about— the team you love, and not the virus you hate.

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