Atlanta has just lost to Club America 3-0. I’ve had a number of Athenas. And you’ve probably realized at this point that MLS will follow the lead of the NBA and suspend its season. It feels inevitable. And it sucks. It really, really sucks.
I wrote before the season started about “the slog to rigor mortis.” It’s one of the most distilled explanations of our actions as fans that I’ve ever heard. It comes from Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus.
The point of this entire enterprise is to entertain us with baseball games. The point of it is not to decide who is the best team. The illusion that that is what we’re doing has long been a powerful draw to sports. But it is ultimately not the point. There is no scenario where the universe will care or remember who the best team was out of this collection of collections. It only matters inasmuch as we create this illusion that it matters.
If you lose even the illusion, then it becomes problematic. But the point is not to have the illusion: the point is to entertain people and make them forget that we are all dying right in front of each other — that this is just this horrible, rotten slog to rigor mortis, that we are going to lose everybody we know, that we are going to lose everything we have and the only way to distract ourselves is by separating our day into distractions.
Now that distraction will be gone. And now it feels less like a slog and more like a sprint. And now things are terrifying and confusing and inconsistent which only compounds the terrifying and confusing parts. We won’t have games to watch and what has been the steadiest part of life for so many of us—the existence of people manipulating a ball for our entertainment—won’t be there.
So, now what?
Shit, y’all, I don’t really know. I’ve never done this.
I called my Dad last week and we talked about the normal things. We talked about work and my sister and spring training. And then he told me he had pneumonia. And he started running through his symptoms. And I started checking off his symptoms. And they fit so well with COVID-19 that I kind of freaked. I didn’t let him know I freaked of course. But I kind of freaked.
He’s fine. He’s been tested. It was all just a coincidence. But it was still frightening. He’s older. My step-mom has MS. They’re both in demographics that die from this shit. And I was and am so, so scared.
So, now what?
My thought is this. So much of the act of staring the slog directly in the eyes and making it cower before you even when it feels larger than you can ever hope to be, involves hope. The distraction itself stems from the communities created around the idea that a collection of moments just might occur that bring us joy, even if it only passes through us for an instant.
Even if your team is terrible, you show up anyway. You might show up just to complain—which is its own part of the distraction— but if you’re honest, you’re there because of the microscopic chance that something will go right, and you’ll be able to be joyful within your community.
So now we’re here. And nothing is going right. And maybe that’s the end of it. Maybe nothing goes right for a long, long time.
If it’s the case that nothing will go right for a long time and that the constants in our lives will disappear for a while, then the communities we’ve built through children’s games matter more than ever. As a member of these communities, you are now tasked with providing the Great Distraction. If there is no product on the field then we’ll have to create products of distraction ourselves. Even if it’s something as dumb as latching on to a stupid joke on Twitter or making a list of Atlanta United players as animals or a deep dive into the club’s analytical history of shots from Zone 14 or yeah, I don’t know, maybe just stick to being a part of the really stupid joke on Twitter. Don’t be dismissive. Embrace on any terms.
It’s now on us, in each of our communities, big and small, Atlanta United and otherwise, to create for and care for each other. In whatever form that may be. We and You are now the Great Distraction. But with that distraction, like any other, is an accompanying hope: If we can hold out just long enough, we’ll get there.
The day will come. The sun will rise. We’ll cheer as someone kicks a ball. And we’ll be fine.