Everyone knows a person like Alex Johnson. Alex was a die-hard sports fan for their whole lives. Alex rooted for the home teams, cheered loudly, and never missed a game. Alex loved the postgame fireworks and confetti, thought the pregame flyovers were super neato, and always buys the latest authentic NFL uniforms for special causes that the players never actually wear… at least when Alex was an NFL fan they did.
Alex was distraught in mid-March when sports went away during the pandemic. Their alma-mater was definitely going to bust some brackets and make a deep March Madness run. No one respected the midwest’s brand of blue-collar basketball, but Alex knew they were going to prove them wrong this year. Alex knew the Lakers and Clippers were the favorites but had a feeling about some of the smaller market teams… they were just playing a grittier brand of basketball. “Tough defense wins in the playoffs, not the crybaby bogus antics of a guy like LeBron,” was Alex’s last post on Facebook before the NBA shut down.
And baseball? America’s pastime? Alex kept track of their favorite sport by scoring every inning in their own scorebook and was livid when their scoresheet was done more accurately than the official one. Alex knew it was a throwing error, even if the MLB officials didn’t agree. Alex was a die-hard sports fan. Alex knew best.
But with sports gone, the only thing on TV for March, April, and May was the news. Alex dislikes the real news, because it’s just too serious all the time. Alex adamantly argued, in a multi-paragraph Facebook post, that the news was really trying to divide us. And that was the real news… Don’t even get Alex started on the fake news.
But then, in June, Alex was elated. It looked like sports were going to be back. Finally! Something to escape the news with!
The NBA formed a plan to create a bubble in Orlando and had secured thousands of COVID tests to be sure everyone was safe. Baseball decided that, after a microwave-esque warm-up, they could throw together a quick 60-game season, and Rob Manfred helped figure out the travel logistics. Hockey was going to play in a Canadian bubble, because they had a whole supply of COVID tests Americans weren’t using. College football programs were getting their summer workouts in and, even if kids were testing positive, the only students any college wanted on campus were the athletes, so they were sure to not spread it to the rest of the student body. And the NFL, minus a few folks scared to play, was moving forward like nothing was wrong. Alex hadn’t watched the NFL in a few years… but that looked like a good sign for college football. They were all going to jump right into the real games! (Women’s sports were coming back too, but Alex never really watched them to begin with, and so they didn’t know as much about their plans.)
But then, as sports came back, Alex’s worst nightmare was coming true: those athletes in their favorite pro sports had also been watching the news in quarantine.
NASCAR was the first thing to come back. Since the athletes were in their cars, they were pretty safe. Alex had been a diehard NASCAR fan, but Bubba Wallace ended that. Wallace had come into NASCAR, without even winning a race, and completely changed the landscape. Bubba Wallace had the audacity to ask about changing the flags flying a couple hundred of feet above the race. NASCAR is a key part of Southern culture… Alex knew all about the sport’s history and its connection to bootlegging alcohol across Dixie. How could that sport get rid of fans who wanted the confederate flag? Alex was out. That was going too far. Alex couldn’t watch NASCAR if they were going to go out and disassociate from history… After all, that didn’t somehow take back history or anything. What was the point, outside of pissing off people like Alex?
As they were getting out of NASCAR, Alex saw the NBA was going to put “Black Lives Matter” across the court. Further, NBA players were electing to replace their names with social justice messages. Things like “VOTE” and “EQUALITY” were going to replace names like Green and Johnson. While that was off-putting to Alex, seeing things like “BLACK LIVES MATTER” or “SAY THEIR NAMES” in a rainbow-esque arch across the top of a uniform not only took up too much space, but they missed the point to Alex.
Alex adamantly believes All Lives Matter. Thus every person’s name was important to Alex. So, Alex decided to never turn the NBA on their television again, before the league even started.
Later in July, on opening night for Major League Baseball, the Yankees, Nationals, Dodgers, and Giants all kneeled during the anthem. Alex didn’t even make it past the first inning. Alex had to turn it off for the night. Who could ever honor something from a knee? How could the players sing the anthem from a knee?
But that wasn’t the last straw for Alex. Alex adamantly followed the Boston Red Sox, at least since they finally got over their curse in 2004. Plus, Alex absolutely loved Fever Pitch. When the Boston Red Sox put BLACK LIVES MATTER on Fenway Park, and then played the Black National anthem, that was too much for Alex. Alex was firm on one thing: there is ONE national anthem. ONE. Alex was out on baseball, too.
Hockey, Alex thought, may be the last true American sport they could find solace in. Hockey is for the tough, hockey is for the strong. Hockey, Alex thought, was the last place that they’d ever find some soft crap like a political stance in a sports game. Hockey also recently added a new franchise in the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Alex could never have been considered a bandwagon fan if he followed a new franchise.
And, the Knights were good. They went into the NHL bubble first in their division, they were a Stanley Cup finalist just two years ago, and they had a fun roster full of Swedes, Canadians, and red blooded Americans alike. Like so many sports had, they couldn’t let Alex down now.
Until they did. In the team’s first game back, Vegas’ Ryan Reaves and Robin Lehner knelt next to Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickson of the Dallas Stars for both the American and Canadian national anthems. Their relationship was short, but Alex was out on the NHL, too.
Alex, as a sports fan, had one final respite as the fall approached. Alex had given up on the NFL way back in 2016, after Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem and many others followed… but he could never give up college football. While many pro players had become entitled in their NFL riches in the months following Kaepernick’s protest, college players were still quiet and enjoyed playing football for football’s sake. For the love of the game, and free education, college football players appeared to be the last group of athletes in America that were uncorrupted by the glitz and glamour that the 21st century had plagued sport with.
And even then, it couldn’t be just any college football team. Smaller schools, the Ivy League, and even the MAC had wimped out of playing this fall because of COVID. Alex was going to miss beating up on the little guys, but big time college football would be fine. If anything, it was just a way to ensure a Boise State or some other mid-major didn’t muck up the bigger picture.
Then, the PAC12 Unity movement came, and players were speaking out about issues they were seeing within their institutions. Further, they dared ask for some larger form of compensation. Alex took to twitter to point out to many of the athletes that they were receiving a scholarship, and that they ought to be grateful to get an education in exchange for playing a game everyone would love the opportunity to play. But the PAC12 was just the beginning.
Alex thoroughly regretted retweeting Trevor Lawrence late Sunday night, when Alex thought Lawrence was advocating for playing. Lawrence’s tweet had the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, and a graphic. Eager to promote players playing, Alex retweeted the tweet… until someone replied that the graphic was asking for a players association in NCAA football. You know, a players association… better known as a union.
Listen, if there’s one thing Alex hates, it’s workers forming unions. Especially workers who are paid in class credit hours. And the idea that college players wanted a union of some sort, when they’re already getting an education for free, really pissed Alex off.
Alex was at a loss of what to do, but before Alex could even figure it out, the entire sport was in jeopardy. ESPN reported Monday that the Power 5 conferences were each in danger of not playing football this fall because the players were worried about getting sick. Worse, the BIG 10 was adamant about postponing the season. The BIG 10 occupied most of middle America, aka people just like Alex. Alex’s region of the country no longer was going to have major college football. What was Alex supposed to do?
So, Alex swore off of college football. If the colleges Alex’s tax dollars went to couldn’t figure out how to play sports, Alex was done with them.
Alex, after a long facebook rant against college students trying to avoid a virus, turned on the news to see the President calling it a disaster if college football didn’t get played this fall. Thumbs. Freaking. Up. It was a disaster, the kind of disaster that was pushing Alex away from being a sports fan entirely.
Alex was back to watching the news. That was the only thing on for Alex anymore…
Alex had basically spent a summer trying to swear off sports. Alex continued to run out of things to watch, and kept wondering if maybe the pendulum of sports would swing back where they were “watchable” again. Maybe time to rekindle a relationship. And just as Alex was trying to turn on his TV to find sports, there weren’t any games to be found. Hockey was playing anti-racist programming, Major League Baseball games were cancelled, and the NBA games were being replaced by three-fourths of a crew doing an extended pre-game show. Even when Alex wanted to find sports on August 26th, there were none to be found.
Just like that, a once avid sports fan was no more. Alex had run out of team sports to watch, all because sports had the gall to have a reaction to the world around them.
Everyone knows the person in their Facebook feed, Twitter timeline, or Instagram comments like Alex. While sports were gone, they were so super tired of all of the news. And now that sports are back? The politicization is just too much. Is there any sports league that will please Alex or the sports fans like them?
Sports are back. Or, better said, Sports are kind of back… Alex and sports fans of a similar mindset, however, ain’t coming back with them. And it seems like sports may just keep it on without folks like Alex.