By Milo Boublik ’22
Ever since I entered high school and began to have a more stressful schedule, my favorite part of every week has been watching NBA, MLB, or NFL games over the weekend. For me and millions of other Americans, there is nothing more relaxing than being able to unwind in front of the TV and watch a sports game after a taxing week. As I watch Lebron James sprint down the court and fly over a defender for a dunk, or Aaron Judge hit a 450-foot home run, or Patrick Mahomes throw a pass that seems to cover the entire field, all of the stress that has been built up in my mind during the past week temporarily vanishes.
The beginning of COVID-19 made me realize, for the first time, how important live sports are to me and to my mental health. Without the outlet of watching live sports, I found myself consistently stressed after long weeks of online school. I would try rewatching old games to see if they could provide a similar source of happiness, but, without the anticipation of wondering which players would play well or which teams would win, they did not offer the same excitement that live sports did.
While the absence of live sports during COVID-19 left me unsatisfied after days of Zoom classes, the detrimental effect of this absence perhaps became even more apparent to me in another way.
Whether people are together or apart, watching live sports has always been a social affair. COVID-19 not only restricted people from physically seeing each other, but it also took away the interactions that people had on FaceTime, text, or any social media platform while watching live sports games.
A large part of many people’s social lives is being able to communicate with friends during a live game. It does not matter if everyone is rooting for the winning team or not because if you and your friends are rooting for the same team, you can FaceTime and celebrate together after a big win or digitally sulk together after a big loss. Also, if you and your friends are rooting for opposite teams, you can engage in some light-hearted trash-talk with them, which, counterintuitively, always seems to strengthen friendships.
Regardless of the outcome of the game, what really matters is having something to constantly keep you in touch with your friends. For example, I am a Knicks fan who lives in New York City, but I have a friend who lives in California who also loves the Knicks. We used to communicate with each other every time the Knicks played, but now we barely speak with each other.
Along with interactions with friends being reduced, there is also a familial aspect of watching live sports that has been taken away due to COVID-19. Many American families gather around the television together when their favorite team is playing, and everyone in the family is glued to the screen for hours. For many, this family time is invaluable and one of the main sources of unification for the family. I have a friend whose family members are all diehard Eagles fans. The entire family gets together every Sunday during the NFL season to watch the Eagles play, and my friend’s grandma always used to say, “Every Sunday feels like Thanksgiving.” So, despite many families living together and spending all day in the same house, a special kind of family time has been taken away because of the lack of live sports. COVID-19 has shown that live sports are vital to people’s mental health and are an integral part of people’s relationships with their friends and families.
After the NBA and MLB resumed playing, I noticed that spirits were lifted and that the world seemed to reconnect. I now find myself being able to unwind on the couch after a long day, blissfully watching James Harden hit countless step-back-threes or watching Mike Trout transform into a blur as he dashes into home plate. I can now log onto Instagram and see highlights with millions of views and comments from people all around the world who are discussing and appreciating the games. I can once again appreciate the shared love for sports that I have with my friends and family, and, for the first time since COVID-19 began, I feel connected to the world around me.