There’s no whining in baseball, as the saying goes — or something like that.
But as we now enter the second month of life with no sports, you can’t blame fans for feeling melancholy.
April is the best month of the calendar. The NBA and NHL start their postseasons, baseball opens up, college basketball crowns its champions, and the world’s top golfers converge on Augusta.
Not this year. A pandemic has stranded us at home. So watching sports is limited to tuning into throwback events where you already know the outcome.
So it’s okay to feel wistful, if not depressed. To that end, I asked my social media followers what they miss about sports right now. More than 900 responses later, here’s an abbreviated list:
We miss getting to our seats at the ballpark just in time to hear Dan Baker announce, “Batting third, Bryce Harrrrr-perrrr.” Watching a young child in awe of the Phanatic for the first time, or sharing one more game with my 89-year-old dad. Enjoying a cheesesteak, crab fries, and hoppy IPA as Aaron Nola cruises through the sixth inning. Harry the K still singing “High Hopes” after every home win.
We miss Joel Embiid imploring the Sixers crowd to get louder. The squeak of sneakers on hardwood. Marc Zumoff’s “Yesss!,” as Ben Simmons kicks back to Furkan Korkmaz for a three. Arguing with the guy in the next seat whether it’s all Brett Brown’s fault. Charles Barkley’s truisms. Staying up way past bedtime to enjoy a West Coast playoff game on TNT.
We miss turning on the car radio just to hear Scott Franzke say, “And it’s easy to play, Larry.” And Larry Andersen telling us exactly how the ump blew the call. The promise of Joe Girardi as a better manager than Gabe Kapler. The promise of Didi Gregorius and Scott Kingery as a keystone combo. The Liberty Bell clanging after a Rhys Hoskins homer.
We miss overtime playoff hockey – nothing’s better. Lou Nolan shouting, “The Flyers are going on the PECO powwerrrrr-playyyy.” Playoff beards. The scrape of skates cutting through ice. Wondering if Carter Hart can step up and Claude Giroux can find postseason magic. Kevin Hayes on the penalty kill. Doc Emrick’s vocabulary. Believing that this really could be the Flyers’ year.
We miss Opening Day with the bunting and the flyover and the Boys Choir singing the National Anthem. Box scores. A good bat flip. A bang-bang play. Andrew McCutchen trying to score from second on a ball hit to short right field. Sitting on the back patio with a cigar and portable radio as Jim Jackson reads the out-of-town scoreboard. Ricky Bottalico’s postgame consternation after a loss.
We miss JCC hoops and men’s league hockey. Co-ed softball. Kids in bright uniforms on a Little League field. High school lacrosse. A round of golf at Walnut Lane. Monday night bowling. Barroom darts. Baseball fantasy drafts. Neighborhood multigenerational street hockey games. The Broad Street Run and the Eagles Autism Challenge.
We miss J.T. Realmuto gunning down one more would-be base stealer. Bottom of the ninth, one out, man on second, Hector Neris walking in from the pen. Trade rumors. A triple, some chin music, and a diving catch. The uncertainty of a new season when the weather turns warm and you convince yourselves the Phils just might be a contender.
We miss Azaleas at the Masters and Verne Lundquist walking us down the 16th fairway on Sunday evening. The green jacket. Watching our NCAA bracket pools fall apart. Bill Raftery taking center stage. Cutting down the nets. “One shining moment.” The Frozen Four and Olympic tryouts. Debating all the barstool experts at the neighborhood taproom.
We miss it all and so much more. I miss seeing my neighbor switch the flags on his front porch — Sixers, Flyers, Phils — for whatever team is playing that night. Right now, no one is playing.
Being a smart citizen means cocooning at home until this terrible virus eases up. But someday sports will come back. Socializing will return, and we’ll once again take for granted what we miss so badly today.
In the meantime, just don’t ever let anyone tell you that sports aren’t an important part of our lives. We all know better.