Gilmour: Coronavirus having devastating sports effects

Ian Gilmour, Men's Soccer Beat Reporter

In October of last year I decided to apply for a sports journalism study abroad trip for this upcoming summer. The agenda had us spending four and a half weeks with time split between Paris, France and Rome, Italy.

Everything surrounding the trip seemed to align itself. 

The French Open is taking place when we were scheduled to be in Paris. Euro 2020 is hosting half of the Group A games in Rome; a group featuring Italy, Turkey, Switzerland and Wales along with world-famous players like Gareth Bale, Ciro Immobile and Granit Xhaka.

Newcastle United, the club I support, is into the quarterfinals of the FA Cup, and though they will play Manchester City next in the cup, a trip to Wembley is in sight. A man can dream, and if the Magpies were to make it to the cup final, it would take place on May 23, two days before study abroad was set to begin. 

Yes, I have already looked at changing my flight in order to make it to Wembley for the final.

The trip is cancelled now and I won’t be in Europe among tens of thousands of screaming fans for Euro 2020… and it’s all because of this disease we know too well as COVID-19 or Coronavirus.

Some of our sports team members here at Impact, including myself, were supposed to be travelling to the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament, but now the tournament itself has been canceled thanks to the pandemic.

And yet if I take a step back and look at the problems it’s caused me personally, I consider myself lucky. The only way it’s affected me so far has been disrupting travel. 

I’m not one of the over 1,300 cases in the U.S. and I don’t personally know anyone affected by the disease to this point.

But the sheer fact that this disease is causing society to take unprecedented measures to change everyday lives is mind-blowing. In my lifetime, I cannot remember anything that has changed the sports landscape with this sort of magnitude. 

The NBA season is suspended. The NCAA Tournament is cancelled. Soccer games across Europe are being played in empty stadiums. Even high school events are being postponed. 

We are watching, and are an active part of, history that is unfolding before our very eyes. And it’s not positive history.

Times like these are difficult to persevere through. In these times there’s always one thing that society can turn to in an effort to try and move forward and come together as a people… sports.

But this time that’s not the case. 

The Serie A has totally suspended play until April. The NBA did the same just yesterday and it is simply a matter of time before the major American sports leagues follow suit along with the top five soccer leagues in Europe.

Sports are supposed to be our distraction in this time. Sports are what we can turn to in times of trouble. Some of the most powerful sports moments have come from times of tragedy or disaster.

Steve Gleason’s punt block for the New Orleans Saints after Hurricane Katrina. The first New York Yankees game after 9/11. Dee Gordon’s home run after the death of Jose Fernandez. For me, Jonas Gutierrez scoring the winner for Newcastle against West Ham in one of his first games back after beating cancer.

Those are moments that bring us together and help us in a healing process. But we won’t have moments like that through this. At least not for a while.

As more leagues take measures such as canceling or suspending entire seasons, we will have to face the very real possibility of a world barren of professional sports, even if just for a relatively short time.

So what do we do? I sincerely wish I knew. But I don’t.

I’ve never even had to think about what to do in a world without sports. No sports to watch, to talk about, to write about, to distract myself with, to enjoy, to love. It’s a baffling and overwhelming thought. Yet, one that with each day is becoming a much more real possibility. 

In my wildest dreams, that’s not something I would have expected I’d have to deal with in my lifetime. It’s an all too unfortunate reminder that in this wonderful life, there is really nothing that we can take for granted.

Ian Gilmour is a men’s soccer beat reporter for Impact 89FM WDBM. Follow him on Twitter at @IanGilmour04.