Our athletes are invincible. That is why when the first NBA player contracted the virus, the country went on notice. The professional leagues suspended their seasons around the world, and for many Americans who had not yet been affected by COVID-19, that is when the virus first began to disrupt their routines. That was almost exactly one month ago, back in the second week of March.
Fast forward to now. We are in the second week of April. We have not had Opening Day for Major League Baseball; the Olympics, for the first time in its century-spanning history, has been postponed, and Colby Cave, a hospitalized NHL player, passed away without his family in the room with him due to the threat of the coronavirus.
Our athletes are invincible. We deify them and we dehumanize them, and yet now, without them playing their sports for us to enjoy, we can finally grasp just how human they really are. For some of us, we can relate to them now more than ever because they are stuck at home, playing the same video games we do that purvey their skills to millions of wishful thinkers and hopeful dreamers. For others, they endure the same pains we do, from losing a teammate or best friend to having to isolate from their families to keep them safe.
Really, we can always relate to them. Even when the season is going, they are still just like us. Anyone who is an athlete themselves, or is friends with one, or has gotten a chance to sit down with professionals knows that much. But when sports are in play and the world is “normal,” many of us forget that simple fact.
Our athletes are not invincible. They hear the jeers and insults just like they hear the cheers and praise. They see the loathing on the contorted faces of enemy fans, just like they see the little kid with the sign asking for a signed ball on their birthday. All of the emotions we face, they face too, with the added pressure of being viewed by millions of people on a nightly basis and of being a role model for entire generations of young athletes.
Now more than ever, we need to remember that our athletes deserve the same period of reflection, rest, and health that we do. Seeing them play games as early as next month would certainly bring many people some vestige of the nostalgic comfort that ideally would not have to be so. In the real and pressing case of the MLB, a league scrambling to field teams overseas or in Arizona with little to no thought seeming to go to the mental health of the players in question, fans should not react with gratitude. There should be anger for the dehumanization of their idols; their boos should be directed at their owners, who are doing nothing to stop the flood of rumors and speculation surrounding these desperate actions.
Remember, our athletes are not invincible. Their health and safety should not be put on the line for the small emotional benefit of a few million fans, and for the pocketbooks of the wealthy owners running the teams and the television networks. We should save them just like they have saved us.
Art by Kalo Grimsby