Sport is an antidote to fear, despair
Every news and sport headline about Covid-19 is laced with shock and horror. Every headline, in digital or print media, takes on a social media life of its own with fear central to everything. Sensation is beating the hell out of sensibility.
Calm down people. Calm down.
The Germans led the way a week ago with the return of the Bundesliga. Typically, it proved what is possible when common sense combines with a credible plan.
Countries are reacting differently to combating the virus, with some excessive in enforcing lockdown and others more trusting of their citizens to be responsible.
Life cannot indefinitely be put on hold. Sport, as a contributor to living, can’t just close shop and reopen when every government official is comfortable that a sniff is not a potential death sentence.
The English Premier League, one of the biggest sporting attractions on the planet, is set for a competitive resumption of a season already 76% complete. The projections are for matches to be played behind closed doors in a month’s time.
Players started training with their teammates this week and they, the managers and support staff are adhering to strict health protocols.
Everyone who is present at training (from players to support staff) is tested on arrival. Of the 748 tests conducted at the start of the week, 742 returned a negative result. There were six positive results, among players and staff, with three of them from one club.
Guess what the headline screamed? “Breaking news: six EPL players test positive for coronavirus!”
The second paragraph of the article told the real story, which was that 99.1% of those tested were cleared of any infection.
What was a good-news story was secondary. The good-news stories I’ve read in the past two months have been buried as a footnote or mentioned as a throwaway line.
I read about spikes in infections, spikes (per capita) on deaths and percentages that are exaggerated to support the shock factor.
Very few articles that highlight the number of deaths balance this daily breaking news update with an expanded statistic detailing how many of those who have died were also suffering from serious secondary or primary pre-existing conditions.
I read a piece that 5% of the deaths in the UK were exclusive to Covid-19 and that 25% of the deaths were made up of people suffering from diabetes, which was way less than any collective of those with extreme cases of lung illness caused by smoking.
You can’t buy a cigarette but if sugar is your sin, the poison is in abundance and on sale everywhere.
For the record: I don’t smoke.
My reference to tobacco and sugar is an observation of the madness of the moment, and it is a particular reference to South Africa.
I don’t read about the gains being made in the fight against Covid-19, unless I am reading the New Zealand Herald. The Kiwis, more than any other nation, dealt with Covid-19 in the most remarkable fashion, with their prime minister addressing the nation daily through the most telling times and providing hope that the people’s actions were beating the virus. New Zealand’s leadership gave people hope because they treated them like citizens and not criminals.
Professional sport returns in mid-June and life in New Zealand is thriving under an adjusted normal.
Ditto the Germans, who have found solutions and communicated the good news with each solution.
My hope is for South Africa’s leadership to do the same and to appreciate how sport provides hope and escape and how constant and transparent communication kills the calculated spread of chaos with calm. People need sport as much as they need a communicative cuddle from the President. And they need both sooner rather than later.
Keohane is an award-winning sports journalist and a regular contributor to Independent Media