I'll be honest, I'm going to let my sports nut side out a bit here. I want to talk a bit today about the return of some sports, and how that can be an example for us as we begin to slowly open some things back up. I was inspired to write about this by the return of the Bundesliga. If you don't know what the Bundesliga is, that's okay. It's the German professional soccer league, with famous teams like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. After a break that lasted over 2 months, they played their first matches since March on May 17th.
How, when, or even if sports can return in 2020 has been a hotly debated question since this pandemic began. There are many differing views, and almost everyone has an opinion. Sports are an important unifying and cultural activity for just about every culture in the world, including ours. So is there a way to have them while ensuring the safety of everyone involved? This is why the Bundesliga is so important; it is the first major, internationally watched sports league to attempt to resume play.
Even if you don't care about German soccer (heck, this is America, maybe you don't care about any soccer), you should be interested in how the Bundesliga fares. The sports world is watching them with baited breath, waiting to see if their health and safety measures do indeed make sports plausible again. The MLB is considering a return in July, the NBA is opening up optional practice facilities, and the NFL has already stated that they plan to play their season in the fall. But, as with everything during the pandemic, those plans are subject to change.
See, the Bundesliga is kind of like world sports' guinea pig. How their re-opening goes and whether or not they have to suspend again will likely dictate how soon most other sports in the world begin play again. They will serve as an example for the rest of the world. Here's the good news: after the first round of games, things seemed to go well. This will obviously be monitored very closely, but so far, so good.
Things were certainly different, and that's an important thing to accept. Soccer, almost more than any other sport, is affected and enhanced by crowd chants and cheering. But if the option is games with no crowds or no games at all? I'll take crowdless games all day. This is the larger point I'm trying to make: if we accept that things are going to be different and work towards having them in altered states, it will make our eventual reopening much quicker and less painful.
My family had pizza for dinner the other evening. I went to pick it up, and I was impressed with the system they had. We had called ahead and paid over the phone, so I was only there to grab the food. They served the pizza out of a window they normally sell ice cream from during the summer, and the whole staff was wearing masks and gloves. There was a bottle of hand sanitizer right there on the counter. They simply asked me my name, came out the side door, and handed me my delicious pepperoni pizza.
This was certainly different from the normal takeout experience that we've become accustomed to. But you know what? The pizza tasted just as good. That's the point! If we simply accept that things are going to be different and focus our energies on making them work within the context of this pandemic, we can do great things. I still got my pizza, and Germany got their soccer back.
I'm not saying this is easy. I'm as frustrated and sick of not being able to go where I'd like as anyone. But we can delay the return of things we love, or even need (like public mass, sports, working together, or getting a much-needed haircut) by insisting that they must return exactly as they were before. My personal belief is that we will eventually get back to pre-corona norms, but that it will be a while before that happens. However, isn't a modified experience better than no experience at all?
It's important that we keep this in mind as some things start to come back. Rather than complaining about how unnatural it is to see sports played in empty stadiums, let's be grateful that we're starting to get some sports back. Rather than being angry that we can only eat outside at restaurants in the short term, let's be thankful for the opportunity to go out to dinner again. If we take this way of thinking into everything that opens up over the next few weeks and months, we'll be doing our mental health a huge favor.
I want to be clear, I'm not trying to call anyone out here, least of all those who are frustrated by this pandemic. But I've said it before and I'll say it until I'm blue in the face: there are things we can control, and things we can't. One of the things we can always control how we allow ourselves to react to situations. We will always be setting ourselves up to succeed if we approach things from a place of gratefulness for what God has given us. After all, isn't that what we're called to do as Children of the Lord?
I urge anyone reading this to make gratefulness their defining attribute for the next few weeks. If you feel yourself getting angry or frustrated about a pandemic-related change, press the pause button. Take a couple deep breaths, or even take a walk if you need to. Then try to view the situation through a lens of gratefulness. I can promise you'll feel a bit better. It might not make everything rosy, but it'll help you to cope with everything just a bit easier.
I hope you and your families are all doing well. Know you are in my prayers, and please continue to pray for the Next Generation of Disciples youth group and myself as well! I look forward to seeing many of you soon.