By Ben Wright, editor.
Our culture places a tremendous value on sports. Our weekly schedules are often worked around games. In our cultural hierarchy, professional athletes generally sit a class or two above the rest of us, closer to an A-list celebrity than a working-class citizen. If you’re able to list “professional athlete” as your occupation, you’re immediately assigned a level of credibility most of us will never experience.
I’m not at all trying to insinuate that athletes shouldn’t be respected or admired. They should. The percentage of people who can make a living playing a sport is incredibly small, and the amount of work, dedication, and pure perseverance required to sign a professional contract is worthy of applause.
But this is something that’s been on my mind for a while, and it’s only been reinforced as our world grinds to a halt due to COVID-19. Why are jobs like professional sports put on a pedestal and others taken for granted, or even looked on with disdain?
I’m not trying to downplay sports. Sports are more than just entertainment to many people. They’re a way to connect with others, to build community, to share experiences. As John Sloop wrote, “[Soccer] is not just a distraction; it’s something we do together that makes life easier, a bit more fun.” It’s been 22 days since Major League Soccer suspended the season due to Coronavirus, and I’ve missed it every day.
It’s been hard and weird and frustrating for sure. But with sports on hold, a new group of heroes has been thrust into our cultural spotlight, a group who consistently works tirelessly, and too often works thanklessly. While we’re sitting at home hoping we don’t get sick, these “essential employees” continue to do their jobs to keep the rest of us safe, fed and healthy. No goals are being scored, but we still have plenty of people to cheer for.
People like these Italian doctors and nurses, fighting the virus on the frontlines of the hardest hit country in the world.
People who go to work every day to stock shelves and keep us fed, all at significant risk of getting sick and often for a less than liveable wage.
People like Suzanne Hoylaerts.
I guess I'm trying to say a few things.
1. I love sports. I miss them. I can't think of anything better going into my fourth week of quarantine than sitting on my couch on a Saturday morning and watching a couple Premier League matches. I miss watching and writing about Nashville SC. I can't wait for that part of life to get back to normal.
2. There are people risking their lives right now to keep us healthy and get life back to normal. Medical professionals, grocery store employees, first responders, truck drivers, food service employees, and so many more. These people are fundamentally crucial to our society.
3. Don't forget about these essential employees when things go back to normal. These workers are in the spotlight now. Don't let the return of normalcy, sports and entertainment cause us to view these careers as secondary or "less than" anything else. Tip your waiters. Have a conversation with your cashier. Thank your doctor or nurse friend for saving lives every day. Build statues and memorials for everyone fighting to kick Covid's ass.
4. Treat people with respect, no matter what their job is. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I'm ashamed that I can subconsciously think of certain jobs as beneath me. That's stupid. We depend on people to get up and go to work every day doing the behind-the-scenes, not-glamorous work of keeping society running.
I can't wait life to get back to normal. I can't wait for sports to be back. After this is all over, though, I hope we can live life with a new appreciation and respect for the every-day people who pulled us through this. Celebrate athletes. Cheer for your team. And appreciate those who quietly do the essential jobs every day.
The above is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Speedway Soccer.
Cover photo by Casey Gower / Speedway Soccer.