Editorial: COVID-19 And Sports









Sports More Than Toy Box During Trying Times
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

Four years ago, as I began to research for my 2018-published book on the history of the Canadian Seniors’ Golf Association (est. 1918), I discovered that a common denominator dominated the sports world one century earlier: the Spanish flu, which affected 500 million people and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million people.

No matter how I tried to focus on the golf news from 100 years earlier, the flu pandemic from January 1918 through December 1920 was really the only news that mattered during that era. The First World War 1914-18 and its global mobility was largely blamed for the mass spreading of influenza.

The world changed forever, and it’s changing now with the novel coronavirus pandemic. We are truly a global community where no one is immune from all that it entails. Despite the medical evidence, there is still so much uncertainty about how COVID-19 will affect us. And with uncertainty comes fear.

As a youngster living with physical disabilities, and watching out the window with tears in my eyes as my friends played stickball and road hockey, I found solace in watching Major League Baseball, PGA Tour golf and the Toronto Maple Leafs on TV. That helped me get through the tough times – although I had no idea then that I would be a long-suffering Leafs fan.

No matter what the world has thrown at us, sports has always been there to provide a much-needed diversion from the realities of life. But today, much of that is gone with the postponement and cancellation of games ranging from local minor sports to international tournaments.

Even as I write this column, news develops, but as of this weekend the sports world was a ghost town. The London Knights and London Lightning saw their seasons suspended. The London Nationals were favourites to win a Junior B title but the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League ended the playoffs during the second round. Nats’ GM/coach Pat Powers said, “I’m so gutted for all of the guys on our team and our staff.”

It was a similar story with Western Mustangs men’s hockey head coach Clarke Singer, after the University Cup men’s national tournament was cancelled Thursday, ending the Stangs’ storybook season. After meeting with his squad, Singer said, “I feel very bad for our graduating guys. It’s one thing to have your career end on the ice. It’s another to end your university career in a meeting room.”

A big question mark surrounds the quickly-approaching local golf season. It’s an outdoor sport, but there is still much social interaction in the clubhouses, locker rooms and banquet halls. No doubt, the industry awaits with trepidation.

Some courses, including FireRock Golf Club in Komoka, Caradoc Sands Golf Club in Strathroy and Pine Knot Golf and Country Club in Dorchester have already opened their fairways and greens. Yesterday, Pine Knot stated on social media: “We will continue to remain open for golf, restaurants and banquet services. We have increased our efforts including increasing cleaning intervals to keep (Pine Knot) clean and safe. With March break and the extended schools closing we encourage families to come out and enjoy Pine Knot for recreation. Being outside in nature has many health benefits including exercise and nature is a great environment for stress relief in these trying times.”

Suffice to say, circumstances are changing by the hour. Also yesterday, St. Catharines Golf and Country Club was one of the first Ontario clubs to announce it had suspended its curling operations, and had temporarily closed its fitness centre and locker rooms, despite the club remaining open.

Today, editorial cartoonist Tim Dolighan summed up the current social climate with his cartoon depicting an older gentleman in self-isolation without any televised sports. Sitting on a recliner with remote in hand, the character stared blankly at his TV as March Madness, MLB, NBA, NHL, Women’s IIHF Worlds, figure skating and soccer – the list went on – were all cancelled.

“Well, so much for staying sane during my self-isolation,” muttered the character.

Bob Feller surrounded by Cleveland Indians teammates. Photo: Iowa History Journal.

There’s no denying that the postponement of the Masters Tournament, or cancellation of the University Cup men’s national hockey tournament, for example, dealt devastating blows to fans and players. It’s OK to be bitterly angry over such disappointments.

But as wait for yet another shoe to drop during this pandemic, and in this new world we live in, it’s time for inner peace, for helping our neighbours, for practicing safe hygiene and for praying.

Life goes on in this crazy world we live in. Late last week, the U.S. launched retaliatory airstrikes in Iraq against Iranian-backed militias after their attack killed coalition troops.

It’s times like these when we need sports to comfort us and to remind us of all that is good about the world.

I once spent an hour talking with Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, a Second World War veteran who spoke about how sports was an “extension of our freedom, and a result of why we fought the War.”

As a cub reporter 40 years earlier, I was told by more than one news editor that the sports department was merely the “playground” and “toy box” of the newsroom. I’ve always thought differently.

So, I’ll keep my eye on the sports world, binge watch my baseball and golf movies, and pray that we all stay safe and come out of this pandemic a much better world.


Jeffrey Reed has been a member of the London sports media since 1980. He is also publisher and editor of LondonOntarioGolf.com. Reach him at jeff@londonontariosports.com.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office http://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com.

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