A friend of mine who lives in Las Vegas recently posted a photo to her Instagram account. She and a couple friends had taken a walk to a local park (while wearing masks and following proper social distancing rules, of course) and had ventured to the basketball courts. When they got there, they found that all the rims had been removed from the hoops. The fact that the rims had been removed didn’t really surprise me – but rather my initial reflex was to reply with this thought:
“That might be the saddest picture I’ve seen in my entire life.”
Let’s be extremely clear: there are far, FAR more important details revolving around the Covid-19 pandemic than us not having sports in our lives. However, as we move closer to whatever “new normal” awaits us, I am of the opinion that there may be few things more suited to bring us all together than sports.
Ever since shelter-at-home orders and school closures started happening across the country in mid-March, teenagers’ social bubbles immediately shrank. But for those high schoolers across the country gearing up for spring sports, or those still in the midst of a deep postseason run, the loss of their sport’s everyday effect on their life might be the biggest gut-punch. The community aspect of organized sports and the de facto families that are formed when teams get together is truly essential to the mental health of these ever-maturing young humans.
And in the blink of an eye, it was all gone.
Unfortunately, in some cases, it might not even be temporary. In the process of adjusting budgets for the 2020-21 school year, some charter schools in Los Angeles are having to cut athletic departments either partially or completely in the wake of this pandemic. I can think of few things worse for these students than losing access to organized athletics, especially those in lower socioeconomic locations. It goes without saying that our best problem solvers are already racking their brains figuring out how to return everything to something resembling normal. Here’s hoping that bringing back organized sports in some capacity is on that list, and ideally near the top.
In all honesty, though, it’s not even just about school-aged children. Communities of all ages, creeds, and colors are formed in parks across this country when that orange sphere is rolled out onto the blacktop. Teams are picked, rivalries are established, and battles are won and lost. But the love of the game and the camaraderie that exists between the soldiers on the court is unmistakable and it’s what we need now more than anything… but only once it’s safe.
So when I think back to those courts in Las Vegas, I remain unsurprised the rims were removed. While it is easy to wonder what the harm is if one person wants to go and shoot some hoops by themselves, the counterargument is quite clear. One person with one basketball is going to quickly become eight or ten people and full-court games are going to happen. It’s just a fact: sports bring people together. And that’s precisely why we’re going to need them in the days, months, and years to come if we want the world to feel in any way like it used to feel.
That rimless backboard is about as perfect of an analogy as I can think of for our current sports-less society. Fundamentally speaking, nothing can be achieved without the backboard. And it’s there, firmly in place. It’s not going anywhere. But without the rim, without a true essence of companionship like the one that sports can bring, it doesn’t make much sense to even be at the park. It’s just a random pole in the ground. I’m willing to bet, though, that once those rims can get safely reattached, it’ll be “game on,” and normalcy just might be right around the corner.
Just make sure they’re not double rims, though. That’s almost worse than no rims at all.
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Guest contributor Justin Gott is a 33-year-old writer who has earned Masters degrees in both Education and Sports Management. He has taught high school math in South Los Angeles, and has also spent time working at the Rose Bowl and with the likes of the Los Angeles Chargers, the Big West Conference, and the NCAA. Justin currently resides in Southern California with his wife and dog.
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Photo courtesy of Alicia Palomino