What I miss the most: live sports

As part of a new series, we asked our writers what aspects of pre-quarantine life they miss the most.

The+empty+Allianz+Arena+is+seen+prior+to+the+German+Bundesliga+soccer+match+between+Bayern+Munich+and+Eintracht+Frankfurt+in+Munich%2C+Germany%2C+Saturday%2C+May+23%2C+2020.

Andreas Gebert/AP

The empty Allianz Arena is seen prior to the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt in Munich, Germany, Saturday, May 23, 2020.

Jorge Valdano, former coach and general manager of Real Madrid, once said, “of all the unimportant things, football is the most important.” I feel like that message rings loud and clear today for me.

The COVID-19 outbreak affected various aspects of our lives, and sports was no exception. As someone who is not only an avid sports fan but whose goal is to be a sports journalist, losing live sports was a significant blow.

However, it’s not simply the sport itself that I find myself missing. It’s that sense of community, camaraderie and ritual that comes along with it.

I miss waking up as early as 6 a.m. on a weekend, turning on the television, making a cup of tea and catching whichever Premier League match is television. I miss the atmosphere of it all. Whether it’s cheering after a goal or chants like Liverpool fans’ “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” it all adds to the experience.

The Bundesliga, the top division of German soccer, recently returned. But it’s not the same. Because of the virus, the Bundesliga is rightly finishing the season with no fans in the stands. Without them, the difference is palpable. 

Instead of the supporters creating an atmosphere, all you hear is the thud of the ball being hit or players yelling instructions at one another in a language you don’t understand. 

I miss that atmosphere. Without any fans, the matches seem like a glorified training session. Whereas having fans can make a neutral or a newcomer immediately latch onto a team or make a mediocre game better by creating tension.

The broadcasters for the Bundesliga recently introduced canned fan noises to play during matches. Think of what a laugh track is for a sitcom. It was met with skepticism, including from myself.

But the more I watched, the more the crowd noise blended in and I forgot that it was canned. However, I was quickly brought back to reality when the camera panned from the goalkeeper’s perspective and I saw nothing but an empty stadium. It loses some of that luster.

My favorite thing that I miss is the adrenaline you get on the day of a big rivalry game. It’s those games that are the ones I look forward to all season. That nervous excitement that builds throughout the week until matchday when it reaches that boiling point.

The game then gets underway and that feeling is replaced by utter dread whenever the opposing team has the ball and you think they are going to score. Again, that feeling is enhanced by the crowd noise and adds to that tension. 

That feeling is then replaced with pure elation when my favorite team scores. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions until the end of the game when a wave of relief falls over you and joy or heartbreak depending on how the game went.

I miss the post game activities of talking to other friends or other fans about the game and getting their opinions on it. Listening to podcasts from journalists who were at the game breaking down the match and what it means. And, of course, gloating or teasing fans of the other team on social media. 

But more than anything, I miss having those two or three hours where I can escape from reality, sit down with a snack or head down to a bar and watch the game. At the same time, I’m not chomping at the bit for it to return. At least not until it’s safe for players to do so. 

Going to a game — whether it be to the Fire, Red Stars, or Cubs — is out of the question right now. With leagues, both home and abroad, slowly but surely coming back, some aspects of everyday life are returning to normal. In any case, it’s sure to provide an escape that right now, is sorely needed.