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Sports Column | Les Winkeler: Sports should not continue until the pandemic is under control

Sports Column | Les Winkeler: Sports should not continue until the pandemic is under control

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With temperatures in the mid-90s and humidity so stifling that breathing became a chore, I staked out the couch Sunday afternoon.

I propped up some pillows, checked to make sure the lemonade glass was full and grabbed the tuner.

It was slightly before 1 p.m.

The Cardinals game started at 1:15 p.m., so I planned to kill the next 20 minutes watching the PGA tournament. Then, the rest of the afternoon would be spent checking on the progress of the golf tournament between innings.

For some reason, I decided to scroll through the channels before heading to 218 (The Golf Channel). A fishing program was listed on ESPN2. It had been years since I’d watched a fishing show, so I thought, “Why not”?

It turns out ESPN2 was covering a Bassmaster event on the St. Lawrence River. Before I even got settled on the couch the scoreboard flashed on the screen and Chad Morgenthaler, Southern Illinois’ favorite son on the BASS tour, was sitting in fourth place.

That presented a predicament. Golf? Baseball? Fishing?

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, having sports options felt weird. It was something approaching normalcy.

For about three hours the pandemic went away as I clicked back and forth happily, unconcerned about the ravages of carpal tunnel syndrome. I watched fishing until the tournament coverage ended. I watched the Cardinals until they fell behind by six runs in the eighth. The afternoon ended with Mike Thompson’s emotional interview following his first win in seven years.

“This is what Sunday afternoons should be about,” I thought to myself.

Yet, in the back of my mind there was a voice telling me I was reveling in fool’s gold.

Sure enough, Monday morning came with the news that the Miami Marlins had suffered a COVID-19 outbreak. At least one game had already been canceled and players were stranded in their hotels.

A few minutes later while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I learned the Great Lakes Valley Conference had suspended their fall seasons.

It’s not like either of these events were surprising. They were inevitable. The virus is spreading faster now than it was in April and May. To me, it is unthinkable, not to mention irresponsible, to try to play team sports in this environment.

Which is a shame.

America had its chance. Had we listened to science, had we swallowed our pride five months ago, America might have gotten the virus under control. Other countries did it, there is no reason to believe that America, with its wealth and scientific advancements couldn’t have done the same.

But, we struck out when the bases were loaded.

Now, it’s time we start behaving like adults. We made our beds. Now, it’s time to face the consequences.

As much as I enjoyed the Sunday sports smorgasboard, it’s time to go back into athletic deprivation until the virus is under control.

And, there is no use complaining about it. It’s the only option we’ve left ourselves.

LES WINKELER is the former sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les@winkelerswingsandwildlife.com, on Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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