By Joe Rector

Sports made a return to our lives not long ago. A collective sigh could almost be heard echoing from coast to coast. We Americans love our teams and crave seeing them on screens or in stadiums or on courts. This year’s edition of sports is unusual and difficult for some to get used to.

Baseball is America’s sport. That’s been the slogan for years. Yes, many will stay that football has now taken that position, but for some of us, baseball is still king. Although fans are upset that they can’t attend games, I like the new setting. The only unappealing things are the cardboard characters that fill the seats. The purity of the game comes through. A 90-mile-an-hour fastball makes a wonderful pop as it slaps the leather of a catcher’s glove. When a hitter catches a pitch with the sweet spot of a bat, that distinctive sound announces the departure of a baseball to the upper deck of the stadium.

I enjoy the sound of voices from the field. The ump’s calling balls and strikes add color to the game. Managers yelling from the dugout to shift players in the field or to encourage a pitcher or batter increases the excitement of the game. Players have always talked with each other during games, but actually catching a bit of the conversation allows us to understand that many are friends, not diehard enemies of players on the other team. Reverberating swear words as a hitter strikes out or hits into a double play, while not pleasant for networks, show us that athletes are intense competitors who want to always be perfect.

Football also gives us a new experience during this pandemic. Professional games are played in empty stadiums. The players don’t seem to suffer too much from the absence of fans. When the ball is put into play, all athletes demonstrate their unique skills with thrilling catches and pounding runs. Hearing quarterbacks call out cadences or audibles gives fans a feeling that they are closer to the action. The cracking of pads when tackles are made remind some of their glory days when they played high school or little league games.

One time when I wish the sounds weren’t so clear is when a player is injured. The scream from the pain or the sobbing at the realization that the season is over sobers even the most avid fan. Neither do I like hearing the taunting and trash talking between players. Most often, that yammering can be heard between receivers and defensive backs. I’d much rather hear some good-natured teasing that ends with smiles or nods. That could do much more in teaching young players how to behave as players.

Golf is better when viewers can hear the discussions between players and their caddies or the chit-chat between players. The distinctive sounds of a booming drive or a solid iron shot indicates that the ball is headed toward a minute white hole located on a stamp-size green. Groans let audiences know that wayward shot will explode scorecards. A deafening cheer at a par-three hole alerts all that a hole-in-one has occurred.

After months of staying at home, we need some sports to help ease anxiety and boredom. If this pandemic continues and closes these loved sports, Americans will have to find places with their families where they can make their own sounds from the crack of bats, the smack of leather, and the thump of a kicked football. We can survive this time without sports. Yes, that will be difficult, but if we do what the science tells us to do, we can ensure that sports will return next year. Hang in there!