There’s a long, dark tunnel running through the early part of 2020. The world has been turned upside down, and gulfs have grown between us as we are forced to keep strangers and loved ones alike at a distance. Those of us who thrive on human contact are left starving, trying to take what comfort we can from a friend or coworker’s likeness on a cold glass screen. Distractions are few and far between; the news is bad and getting worse, and there are only so many times a person can re-read the same old books that make their homes on the shelves in their house.
It feels like the month of March lasted almost a year all on its own, like we had somehow all awoken on Jupiter without realizing it. The world changed suddenly, without giving anyone time to prepare; things were just different, and it happened nearly overnight. Basketball seasons were terminated prematurely; some ended at halftime, while others were canceled as the two teams warmed up. With this sudden silence falling over courts in cities across the nation and throughout the world, the darkness crept in to replace it, and now there would be no shining moment to keep the shadows at bay. In these empty stadiums, the banks of lights clicked off, dimming slowly as they cooled, to be turned on at some indeterminate point in the future. And suddenly, it was dark.
For sports fans, there isn’t a whole lot to look forward to in the immediate future. The word ‘indefinitely’ has been thrown around a lot the last few weeks, and for once I find myself wishing that Coach K was right, and that indefinite really did mean only one game. I wrote last week about how odd it was for me to look up and realize how dependent I was on the presence of some kind of sports, like my own personal circadian rhythm of Tar Heels on the court or on the field. For example, it’s begun to warm up and the pollen is so thick I could choke—spring practices should be underway for the coming football season. The spring game was scheduled for a week from today. We should be wading through reports from practice; who’s improved since last season, what new faces will step up and be a difference-maker, who’s in danger of losing their spot to a stud freshman from Mack Brown’s impressive class.
There is an ever-increasing chance that the coming football season will be tangibly impacted from a fan’s point of view, but it’s not a done deal yet. We all know the tragedy that befell the basketball season. We’ve all mourned the loss of spring nights at Boshamer Stadium, as well as the hope of a trip to Omaha. A promising tennis season for both the men’s and women’s Tar Heel squads ended love-one in favor of this virus that has so fundamentally shaken the world. Football, at least for now, is still on the docket, with smart folks figuring out the best ways to get the teams back on the field and ready to play as soon as it’s safe to do so. If we can stick this out for a bit longer, wash our hands religiously and do our best to flatten that all-important curve, we may have football in the late-summer months to guide us back to some semblance of normalcy. Stop touching your face, and let the promise of a Saturday spent in Kenan Stadium with 52,000 of your closest friends be the light at the end of this dark, terrible tunnel.
Regardless of how dark the night gets, or how heavy the storm clouds become, the sun always rises. It may shine down onto a changed world when this is all over, but it will rise. My favorite band has a song about hope, about how “Morning Comes,” and that hope is more important now than ever. The good news is, this tunnel does have an end. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to watch the Tar Heels run out of it.