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August 8, 2020

Josh Bergeron: Discovering new joys in changing times

With more COVID-19 cancellations than I can count, it’s been easier than usual to become engrossed in sports I’d usually avoid watching. 

NASCAR has its moments, but I’ve usually decided there are too many laps without action to make it worthwhile to set aside time to watch a race. As a child, I became a Braves fan mostly during the Chipper Jones years and because my great grandmother was a big fan with whom I watched games. Usually, I’ve only tuned into NBA games during the playoffs because, well, the teams in places I’ve lived usually fall far short of the playoffs, including the 7-59 Charlotte Bobcats in the 2011-2012 season.

But the return of sports — first with NASCAR, now with baseball and basketball soon to join them — is bringing some excitement to sports I usually wouldn’t devote attention. I’m like most from Southeastern Conference territory in that college football has always been No. 1 and the NFL is usually No. 2. 

For weeks, NASCAR was the only major American sport on TV, and I tuned in. As a kid, I watched NASCAR occasionally with my dad, whose favorite driver was Rusty Wallace. We went to some races at the Rockingham Speedway when it hosted Winston Cup races. Usually on the weekends, the race was on our TV.

Maybe it’s appropriate to call my recent, renewed interest rekindling my North Carolina roots. 

I’ve since found that NASCAR is best watched while you’re working on other things. It’s good to keep it in eyesight for when something exciting happens, which is less frequent at some tracks than others.

The lack of fans at baseball stadiums has been a little jarring, with swaths of empty seats, cutouts of fans in select places and no cheers when a player hits a home run. Just lots of empty space and announcers trying to hard to fill airtime.

Basketball, meanwhile, appears to be on track for a restart that could be worth watching. The lack of fans isn’t particularly bothersome if the arena setup shown at televised scrimmages remains the same for the regular season finale and the playoffs. There are large screens that show fans and graphics. Fake noise is piped in, but players have also been in the camera’s view for exciting plays. So, the excitement doesn’t seem entirely contrived.

If there’s any lesson to gain from one sports fan’s experiences, it’s to appreciate small items and give things you’ve written off a second chance. So much has changed about daily life — from mask-wearing, or lack thereof, to the cancellation of events that are usually community staples. 

They’re playing baseball in Rowan County, but a home run at Newman Park just doesn’t quite resonate the same with a limit of 25 fans during these dog days of summer. Whether or not church happens indoors, outside or online depends on where you attend services. Among many other things, options for spending time with friends are greatly reduced. 

But there’s something nice about an evening meal, drink and walk around the new Cannon Ballers stadium. The same is true about seeing people walking through downtown Salisbury, whether they’re headed to a boutique or to a restaurant. Diving into one of the many books on my shelf seems easier to do now. Who knew that afternoon walks on the Salisbury Greenway could be so enjoyable?

When will life fully return to what it was in February or March? It’s a question that’s been on people’s minds for months. The answer may be never. Once the threat of COVID-19 fades, social distancing and mask-wearing rules may be here to stay for a while, even if they aren’t mandated. Preferences for remote work and, in turn, the need for large offices spaces are another likely change. Online shopping and food delivery services may only increase in popularity.

No one truly knows what’s our next few weeks or months may look like. So, let’s savor small moments and adapt to our still-changing times by rediscovering a joy for old hobbies and finding new ones.

Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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