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Dan Shaughnessy

Without sports, what do we do now?

Through the decades the games have been there to distract us from real world problems. Now the games are gone.

The only sports topic that matters now is that there are no sports.
The only sports topic that matters now is that there are no sports.Aaron Doster/Associated Press

What do we do now?

We hunker down in our homes. We make sure we have enough toilet paper and Cheerios. We think about how to open and close doors without touching doorknobs. We avoid checking our 401(k). We pray at home because church is canceled. We dust off old board games (when was the last time you played Scrabble?). We ask friends for recommendations for good TV shows to binge.

We do not watch sports on television. There are no more games on TV. And there are not going to be games for quite a while.

I miss the “Scoreboard” section of our newspaper. It had everything. It had all the high school and college scores, transactions, the “Latest Line,” and all the spring training scores and schedules. It had the weekly calendar for the Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics, and Revolution (home games shaded). It had “On The Air” with all the television listings in alphabetical order. In last Sunday’s Globe, “On the Air” started with auto racing and went all the way to women’s soccer. There were 49 games and events listed. Now there is nothing.

We are in a Rod Serling “Twilight Zone” episode. We are in "a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity . . . the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition . . . between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge . . . ''

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In mid-March of 2020 we live in a world without box scores and betting lines. No more fantasy sports. Just the fantasy of sports.

I tried writing a “normal” sports notes column today. I had some sweet trivia on Ron Roenicke and Jerry Narron and a great quiz question about 20-strikeout games by big league pitchers. I had some good nuggets about Cedric Maxwell, Bob Kraft, and Aaron Boone. I was going to write that this might be a good time for MLB to announce its findings in the Red Sox’ alleged cheating scandal from 2018. There must be findings and conclusions by now. It would be a perfect spot for a news dump. Just get it over with.

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But I can’t do that today. Not yet. Nobody cares about MLB’s investigation into the Red Sox anymore. Like the NBA and the NHL, Major League Baseball is treading into the great unknown and this is no time for announcements or commentary about things that felt really important just one week ago. Our professional sports leagues will resume at some time, but the traditional time-honored numbers we value are going to be wildly skewed for 2020. The notion of a 162-game baseball season feels like pure folly now.

Everything is different. Those things that were so important last week feel trivial now. Remember when everybody hated the Houston Astros?

Maybe the Tom Brady free agent news will get us going again this coming week. Maybe we will get back to real sports talk when the NFL’s legal tampering period starts Monday. Maybe we’ll find out late in the week that Tom is going to the Tennessee Titans and that will get everybody talking about sports again.

Or maybe not. Maybe Brady’s “Decision” will seem as banal and ill-timed as everything else in sports right now. The only sports topic that matters is . . . no sports.

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This is not World War II when President Roosevelt ordered that the games go on, even though MLB featured a diluted product (the St. Louis Browns made it to the World Series in 1944). This is not a labor shutdown that impacts a single league and once canceled an entire NHL season. This is not post 9/11 when all the games paused for at least 10 days while our nation dug out from the rubble and made our airports and stadiums safer.

No. This is effectively Shelter in Place for the indefinite future. There are no games and we don’t know when anything will resume.

For the first time in American history, we are enduring a national emergency without our traditional diversion of spectator sports. Through the decades the games have been there to distract us from real world problems. Now the games are gone. Speaking for myself, it makes this crisis more frightful and lonely.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.