There’s no denying sports, as Sunday proves

Braves starting pitcher Kyle Wright throws against the New York Mets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in New York. (Noah K. Murray/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Three months ago, you wouldn’t have bet a farthing that there’d be a day like Sunday. A day in which your big screen sprained multiple pixels trying to keep up with all the games being played. A day that pushed the local couch-bound fan to the brink of exhaustion while flipping channels, making more course changes than a shark on the hunt.

As the coronavirus shut down everything, we were right to wonder about the immediate future of sport. How could any sort of close competition get the least bit of traction before a vaccine was available and the herd was on the move toward immunity?

How wrong the pessimists and amateur virologists among us were to doubt the combined, primal needs to compete and to keep the direct deposits flowing. Properly motivated, our games have powered through every formidable obstacle.

We have gone from wondering if there’d be any sports at all to having almost too much in one day to digest.

Here we were Sunday afternoon, the Falcons and Braves exploring the opposite poles of competence. In New York where the long grass appears to grow teeth, the world’s best golfers at a September U.S. Open were engaged in hand-to-hand combat with par and not faring particularly well. On deck was even more NFL, and another evening for LeBron James to demand that every call go his way.

Surely, Sunday was not a day to experience the rainbow of emotions available to the Atlanta fan. The Braves get a second fine outing from Kyle Wright and stoke optimism toward the postseason. While the Falcons found yet another seemingly impossible way to lose in the state of Texas, where, lest we forget, the legend of 28-3 was born.

Falcons wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus (17) watches the onside kick roll before Dallas cornerback C.J. Goodwin (29) dives on the ball to recover the ball for the Cowboys in the closing minutes Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. The recovery led the Dallas' 40-39 victory over Atlanta. (Ron Jenkins/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Satisfaction and revulsion, the local teams had it all covered Sunday. At least we were feeling something.

It also was time to take a more panoramic view and appreciate the mural of all that was happening Sunday in the midst of so much uncertainty and angst.

To see such a rich variety of diversions would make even a Big Ten administrator hopeful.

You say sport is unimportant in the grand scheme, yet look at the mountains moved in order to keep it going forward. The testing. The protocols. The discipline of all those involved needed to make this work. What emerges is impression of our athletes — a most privileged class — doing such a better job working within the confines of the virus than many other segments of a splintered society.

It was only on July 24 when the Braves went to New York to open a truncated season with much trepidation. Now they have just finished their last road swing of the irregular season — again to New York. And from here can see the end of a trip that that held so many potholes and speed traps along the way. Just a week away from the playoffs, which will render the prior 60 games nothing but a pot sticker before the main course.

How clever and adaptable our sports have been to get us just to this point. Before Hollywood rolled a camera and before Broadway printed another playbill, the show of sport returned to divert us. Sports is the cockroach of entertainment, you can’t kill it.

No, it isn’t perfect, but perfect is a lost concept in 2020.

Now, we’ll simply celebrate better than nothing.

In some small way through sports we all persevere. The scene of 11,000 fans gathered at Georgia Tech for a football game Saturday, for instance, was heartening. Even if they were ill-tempered for much of the day, feeling wronged by the rules-keepers with whistles, they still showed it possible to spectate safely and wisely.

Still their boos sounded like sweet music, because the noise was real.

And for all the trouble gone through these last few months, we get in return scenes of Sunday like the Falcons Calvin Ridley flying to the pylon in poetic movement, the kind for which slow-motion was invented. Like the happy feet on Ronald Acuna during a home run trot. Like an onside kick spinning on the turf aching to be claimed by a Falcon, only none thought to do it. Like Wright sending another Met back to his dugout unfulfilled. Like Bryson DeChambeau attempting to turn the nation’s golf championship into a body building contest.

And I’m exhausted. But it’s a good tired.

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