Have a Ball…Any Ball!

For us, sport is a global obsession.

In every culture, there is a form of sport that we follow closely to a mass following. The want for sport is a national obsession used as an escape from reality. Moreover, some use sport, as it is integral with reality, despite the escapist tendencies of fandom.

In the automotive realm, we love sport as much as the non-enthusiast. Motorsport is the most relative outlet, as we can relate on the players and their machines on the track. There are levels of fanaticism, as with everything.

Perhaps it is appropriate to discuss this topic now that Super Bowl – one of the ultimate points of sport fanaticism – is completely out of focus. It is the one Sunday where even automotive enthusiasts and the media corps actually pay attention to some percentage of the entire broadcast.

Before I dive further into the abyss of this topic, I should tell my own story as to why I look at professional sports with a jaundiced eye. It is in spite what others still believe in its entertainment value.

My path in life always had a sports track. The idea of sports fandom was encouraged by my mother, who was a lady-like fan of baseball. It was her love for the Los Angeles Dodgers that was passed on to her two sons. The eldest, my brother, continues this love for her sport, while the youngest (me) felt a bit astray from it. It is not the game of baseball that I could not connect to – it is Major League Baseball itself.

As with everything in life, I dove head first into the deep end thinking that I would be one of the pithiest writers of the subject. Major League Baseball's Advanced Media division provided that platform and I submerged for four seasons attempting to become relevant as a gay baseball blogger.

The way I went about could have been seen as looking for trouble. Yet, some feelings were uncovered in the process – an entire can of worms opened up that points back at generational, cultural, and political chasms that had been building up for the past five or so decades. I was not immune to these chasms and felt that I was writing about a game that could ultimately care less about a person like me.

That was about ten years ago. A lot has changed since. My life has shifted towards a full-time life in automotive content creation. Yet, my toes are still dipped in the sports world. I see a lot of my friends and compadres are also into sports these days. Even when there are no sports being played in North America right now.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the government's response to it left plenty of voids in society. Sports being one of them.

So far, the American Hockey League cancelled their season for 2019-2020. They called all of the statistics final and will not award their Calder Cup, as far as I know. However, the AHL have already handed out their individual awards.

This summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo have been postponed until 2021. While it would give all of the athletes and local organizers an additional year to prepare, the fact that the Olympic Movement allowed this happen is a sign of life. The International Olympic Committee had canceled its 1940 and 1944 games due to World War II. These games were never rescheduled.

In the meantime, NASCAR went back to racing earlier this month. They raced at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina without any fans in the stands. This will continue to be the case until the"all clear" has been given for fans to congregate at the track again.

However, NASCAR has undergone a transformation towards finding new fans and embracing diversity among their base. They have taken steps to ban the Confederate Battle flag at race events and to campaign and promote diversity towards LGBT and Black race fans.

Other racing series have postponed their biggest events. The Indianapolis 500 will now race in late August. However, the NTT IndyCar series and IMSA have been engaging their fans through iRacing events. Instead of taking it to the track, they have been using e-gaming architectures with their racing athletes to compete in these virtual competitions.

While the NTT IndyCar Series began racing live, the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championships will restart in Daytona on July 4th weekend.

The National Basketball Association will restart their season on July 30 with 22 teams convening at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida. A series of games will take place towards seeding into the playoffs. The NBA Finals is scheduled to start on September 30.

In the meantime, the National Hockey League will restart training camps for 24 teams starting July 10. No further details on how the resumption of play will look like and the timeline towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Finals.

Major League Baseball has also looked at a half-season of play, along with expanded playoffs for this year. No details have been announced, but speculation has teams traveling within each division, including interleague play.

Major League Soccer have set up their new season plan with a "world cup" type of tournament starting on July 8. All of the games will be played at Disney;s Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando. Twenty-six teams will be set up in groups, with a Round of 16 kicking off the playoffs. They have set the final match on August 11.

Lastly, the National Football League and the Women's National Basketball Association have not discussed any plans regarding their seasons at this time.

While the world of sports are on hold, all have to keep us going until they open up again is our memories.

We all have our specific memories of sporting events we attended or experiences we had involving these pastimes. The first time you saw a motorsports event at the track. You bore witness a great feat of athleticism, such as a no-hitter or a hole-in-one. How about the first time you competed in any sport?

We share these memories as we await the complete re-opening of society. Leagues and their teams have taken to social media and YouTube to help us cope with the pandemic by reliving those memories. There's nothing like watching Tony Kanaan win the Indy 500 or the Minnesota Twins winning Game 162 in extra innings.

The way sport and society are integrated today galvanize the path of every person living on this planet. Perhaps it is what makes cultures and communities interesting. It also provides a diversion for automotive folks to take out their frustrations away from their prized jobs and/or rides.

Our love of professional team sports has always been a catapult for fanaticism and loyalty on various levels. Yet, there is always motorsport…the ultimate connection between sport and the automobile. Perhaps there is a balance to be struck between all of these realms within society – even if it means seeing your favorite brand's logo on a futbol kit.

All photos by Randy Stern

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