Ron Colone: Things changed overnight, but can they last?

Ron Colone: Things changed overnight, but can they last?

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A couple weeks ago, when Italy canceled all sporting events, I said can you imagine anything like that happening in the United States, because frankly I couldn’t. That’s how embedded sports-as-entertainment is into our culture, lifestyle, daily activities and definitely our economy.

Revenue from the NBA is about $1.2 billion a month, the NHL and MLB are a little less. Throw in March Madness, NASCAR, golf, tennis, soccer, boxing, MMA, WWF, rodeo and whatever else and it’s almost enough to pay for Bernie’s Medicare-for-all. Not really, but it’s hundreds of billions of dollars a year and that doesn’t even count all the money from betting. But now, the U.S. has followed suit, and most all sporting events have been canceled or indefinitely postponed.

So has everything else. They’re telling us don’t go out, don’t go to restaurants, movies, concerts or church. Don’t be with other people. Separate. Isolate.

I’m always wary of measures that would aim to divide us because historically, our best moments and our greatest triumphs have occurred through our coming together. Besides, research shows that people who live in isolation, or who feel isolated, are more susceptible to illness. Their immune systems respond differently to fighting viruses, making them more likely to develop an illness, which seems counter-productive to the intended result of discouraging people from congregating.

At the same time, I recognize these may be special circumstances, so if these are the kinds of measures required to stem the arch of epidemic, so be it.

But these are radical changes. I mean, not going out and being among people, not shaking hands or hugging when we greet each other, washing our hands 10 times a day? Hoarding as standard shopping procedure? And no sports? That’s a drastically different world than the one we lived in just a few weeks ago.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I remember thinking the world as we know it has changed. I was referring, specifically, to the fact that wars would no longer be waged between countries, opponents that could be identified by national flags and bound by borders. Rather, “the enemy” would come from the domain of ideology, and opposing armies would be made up of inconspicuous citizens from different nations.

The 9/11 attacks changed other things in our normal day-to-day lives, like, for instance, air travel. Think shoes, metal detectors, pat-downs and liquids going through the security lines at the airport. There are other changes that came into our lives with 9/11 that are less obvious and less visible, like increased surveillance, including on our own people. Then there’s the war on terror, which is still going on, making it the longest-running war in our nation’s history. These were not temporary adjustments, they’ve been part of our lives for going on 20 years now.

I wonder if some of these current changes, like refraining from shaking hands or the edict to gather and interact less with each other will prove to be lasting changes, or if, like the ice-bucket challenge of a few years ago, will be all the rage for a short period and then fade away? I doubt the ban on sporting events will last because I can’t imagine an America without spectator sports. But then again, I couldn’t imagine it a few weeks ago.

Right now, this whole thing, the pandemic, social distancing and the threat to the economy appears to me like a glacier. We can only see that which is above the surface, the rest remains hidden to our eyes. Until more is revealed, I strive for safety, awareness and balance.

Ron Colone can be reached at ron.colone@gmail.com

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