Games and Goons

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JJ GOUIN/DREAMSTIME
  • Jj Gouin/Dreamstime
Sports have been hard to properly cheer for almost a year now. Our favorite teams and athletes are finding ways to compete, to create memories for us, despite a pandemic in which almost two million people worldwide have now died. We saw Major League Baseball squeeze a season into two months, baseballs clearing fences but into empty seats, players crossing the plate after a home run to cheers only from their teammates. The country is revved up these days — like every January — for the NFL playoffs, but we still see virtually empty stadiums as twenty-first century gladiators do what we love them to do: clash and crash.

But after January 6th? Good lord, does "clash and crash" now mean, yes, insurrection at our nation's Capitol? How does sports fill its "distraction" role when we're choosing to distract from what could be the dissolution of democracy? A Grizzlies game is always welcome this time of year, even if background to the evening chores, or muted for the sake of dinner conversation. But after January 6th? Are we really going to fret over two missing stars — and the Grizzlies really miss Ja and Jaren — while the legislative branch of our government is discussing the level of madness in the executive branch?

Most of last weekend, I utilized the last-channel button on my remote, bouncing between football and CNN's updates on the status of President Donald J. Trump. Where was he? How would he choose to communicate with Twitter having silenced him? Would he lower the White House's flag to half staff in honor of fallen Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick? Would he face removal via the Constitution's 25th Amendment? Would he face a second impeachment? Who is Taylor Heinicke and what the hell is he doing competing with Tom Brady?

It's a mad world, somewhat literally, here in the early stages of America's 2021. The growing divide between those of us who adhere to science and facts and those (many) who choose to ignore them resulted in this country's first outright coup attempt, one orchestrated and encouraged by the American president. Right there in public, though behind a pane of bulletproof glass. In a time when we are not allowed to gather in stadiums or arenas to cheer our favorite football and basketball teams, thousands gathered — not many in protective masks, you may have noticed — to destroy. The contact tracing from January 6th's attack is going to reach a lot of morgues, I'm afraid. Insurrection in the time of coronavirus is a social cocktail mixed by Lucifer himself.

The Founding Fathers — Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, you know the names — are popular among so-called "patriots," the type who will chant "Hang Mike Pence!" as they breach Capitol security. It's almost quaint now to consider that sedition — conduct in opposition to government authority — was once a hanging offense. Had the American Revolution failed, it's often noted by historians, Washington, Jefferson, and friends would likely have ended up dangling from a rope in front of British officers. Here, almost 250 years later, there will be no hanging of those responsible for January 6th. The question remains if there will be any consequences for the man most responsible for the seditious act.

I share all these thoughts because fear and anxiety (for Democracy, an experiment I've come to love) has reduced my rooting interest (for the teams I love) to its lowest level of my lifetime. Will the St. Louis Cardinals find a bat to improve their anemic offense in 2021? (If they don't, no glass will be broken.) Might the Memphis Tigers find their way to some version of an NCAA tournament come March? (If they don't, no gas will be sprayed.) No, I find myself merely rooting for peace — and significantly, a return to health — for my fellow man, both here in America and abroad. I also hope to see the day when, yes, the Cardinals' run production is my most significant concern. At least for that day. It would be a new time for our planet, and quite welcome for all of us who occupy it.

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