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Filling the void

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Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone

Virginia v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

These are weird times we’re living in. A wholly unprecedented challenge faces us, one that we can’t quite seem to figure out if we’re ready for or not. To sit there and watch the numbers grow day-by-day is maddening, and I know I’m far from the only person looking far and wide for a source of distraction. I’m not here to harp on how scary things are, though; there are far more talented writers out there who can get that point across better than I, and I’d prefer to not just be more noise piling onto the minds of readers who likely come to a sports blog to read about something other than a virus. I would apologize for bringing it up at all, but to not even talk about it feels disingenuous. It’s a big deal, obviously, and one that we understate at our peril. That’s not why I’m sitting here at my desk putting pixels into a word document, though. That’s not the point of all of this.

I’ve always considered myself a well-rounded person. I like to tell myself I’m not one-dimensional, that I have various interests and hobbies. I’ve also never lived in a world without sports. There’s always been a game to have on in the background, a season to keep up with, a favorite player to keep an eye on. There’s been an annual Shining Moment, if you will, in each and every year that the vast majority of us have been alive. There has always been a period, every couple of years, during which we’ve found ourselves super invested in sports we don’t follow at any other time. There has always been something to watch, some game to tune into to block everything else out for a while. At best, your team is winning. At worst, they’ve lost and you can change the channel to find yet another game to distract you from the sting. But there’s never been just...nothing.

There are few things that can unite us like sports can. I’ve only ever hugged complete strangers on a couple of occasions, and those times were almost exclusively sports-related. The connection that we feel to a place, and the on-field or on-court representation of that place, is uniquely able to supply common ground to anyone who may need it. What a cruel twist it is, then, to have access to that unifying force taken away in a time when it can be so easy to feel isolated and alone. The replays that have been on ESPN lately don’t hold the same power, of course, but at least it’s something—a quick fix to get us through this difficult time.

I’m still lucky enough to live in North Carolina, and like most places we have been placed under a Stay At Home order, strongly cautioned to only venture out of our houses or apartments for the essentials. Without sports on TV, I’ve had loads more free time that I have subsequently squandered by thinking about or missing sports, and Tar Heel sports in particular. I’ve spent the last few days, for example, idly wondering how much work it would be to cut an interlocking NC into the grass in my backyard (and make it look good). I reckon there will never be a better time to start my audition tape to join the grounds crew at Boshamer Stadium. It’s also crossed my mind to try and learn how to play Hark The Sound on that old electric guitar in my closet that I’ve not touched in years, but fortunately for my neighbors it hasn’t come to that yet.

If you, like me, are struggling to find things to distract you (however briefly) from the horrors of the outside world, don’t be afraid to reach out. I’ll be here, watching clips of past Tar Heels on YouTube and waiting patiently for the coming 30-for-30 about Michael Jordan’s Bulls. We’re still in this together, even if we’ve never been more apart.