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Sports column: Sports is important, and will be again soon

So how was your week?

It’s hard to believe that just nine days ago the world was still normal. College basketball tournaments were going on as scheduled, we were all looking forward to the NCAA Tournament and the start of conference play in college baseball, and enjoying a relaxing spring break.

Then, in the span of a few hours, everything was turned on its head. Now the country is practically locked down and everyone is assumed to be crawling with disease.

The change happened so fast it has been almost impossible to keep up with. Every reporter has written stories in the last week that were out of date by the time they were finished. I wrote a column last week encouraging people to not live in fear of coronavirus. It looked hopelessly naive by the time it saw print, but the basic message of it has cycled around to become relevant again.

During a time like this, it’s often said that sports is not very important. It can certainly feel that way when we’re scrambling for the last pack of toilet paper in the store, scouring the Earth for hand sanitizer, or worrying about whether our jobs and businesses will survive a nationwide shutdown.

To me, however, it’s been a reminder of just how important sports is.

The sports world provides a natural rhythm and background noise for all of our lives. We might not watch every game, but we know when it’s football season. Watching a baseball game during summer is a comfortable way to spend an afternoon.

The panic of the last week began when the NBA stopped its season on a dime and disrupted that rhythm. It grew when the NCAA halted basketball and baseball season. Those moves served as a loud wake-up call to the country that something was wrong, and we suddenly needed to take the coronavirus threat seriously.

Similarly, in a couple of months — hopefully — sports will return and be one of the first signs that the greatest danger has passed. We’ll eventually watch a race, or go to a baseball game without fear.

That will be a small, but important day for our society. On that day, sports will be more than background noise, more than a distraction. It will mark a return to normalcy. A return to sanity. The roar of the crowd will be a song of triumph.

I just hope we get to sing it sooner rather than later.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com