It is so far down the worry ranks, exponentially below health and economics, personal and societal well-being, because that’s where sporting thoughts reside in times of crisis. Which is not to say that sporting thoughts are altogether forgotten.
After all, sports arenas remain reservoirs of joy and drama, release and escape, sources of heartfelt value in previously fretful times. That such arenas now remain empty – and rightfully so – due to the current threat’s particular nature is one more minor, yet insidious, coronavirus ramification.
In the coming weeks, the effect will be felt more acutely in Milwaukee. The NBA’s regular season was scheduled to end on Wednesday. The Bucks would wrap it up at Brooklyn, the only question being whether their final win total would be one for the ages, perhaps approaching or matching the milestone 70-win plateau. Then the Bucks would get down to playoff business.
In the coming weeks, the effect will be felt more acutely in Milwaukee. The NBA’s regular season was scheduled to end on Wednesday. The Bucks would wrap it up at Brooklyn, the only question being whether their final win total would be one for the ages, perhaps eclipsing the 72 of Jordan’s Bulls, or even the 73 of the Golden State Warriors. Then the Bucks would get down to playoff business.
Fans would descend on Fiserv Forum in frenetic droves, just as they had for the 2019 playoffs. They would mug for the TNT cameras, but perhaps be a little less awestruck at seeing Ernie, Chuck, Kenny and Shaq really broadcasting from the mean streets of Milwaukee. The Bucks surprised everybody by being so good last season, but this season, they wouldn’t be party crashers. They would be the party.
The script was written, the stars cast. The Milwaukee Bucks would enter the NBA playoffs with the league’s best record, the presumptive most valuable player in Giannis, and a determination to rewrite the previous season’s ending. Back then, they’d also claimed the league’s best record, but were new to the playoff crucible. They stalled out in the Eastern Conference Finals, a mere two wins shy of playing for their first NBA championship since 1971.
But this year, the Bucks were even better. This year, they had made a mockery of the regular season, which included an 18-game win streak, and no team was better against the league’s best teams. This year, they would be heavy favorites to make the NBA Finals. They had all the ingredients to beat whomever came out of the West, be it L.A.’s Lakers or Clippers, or perhaps Houston or Denver.
Imagine if the Bucks could do that. Imagine the scenes that would play out in downtown Milwaukee, in homes across Wisconsin and even in the streets of Greece, where Giannis is so beloved. Imagine what that pure elation would look like.
In happier and simpler times, these were the dreams of Bucks fans, that once-downtrodden crew so deserving of their newfound moments in the sun. Their once-in-a-generational star and a team of characters with so much character were poised to make history. All those years of also-rans and almost-buts and what-ifs had finally led to this moment.
And now, the moment has morphed into the biggest what-if of them all.
What if one more minor ramification of the coronavirus pandemic is that all of those dreams just fade away? What if the season resumes and the Bucks come back flat? Or what if they can’t play again at all this year and the season actually ended back on March 11?
It is all so far down the worry list, all so insignificant when compared to the life and death scenes unfolding around the country and around the world. The stakes go so far beyond trophies and awards. The heroes on the court have ceded headlines to the heroes in hospitals and research labs, emergency vehicles and grocery stores.
And yet, those everyday heroes, and the people they save and sustain, could use a few more doses of joy, a few extra avenues of release and escape. We could all use a few simpler and happier dreams to mull.
Here’s to finding our way back to them, and in due time, rediscovering the wonder of those moments in the sun.