I grew up playing sports, always trying to keep up with my older brother. I’ve also been a sports fan my whole life — an avid fan of tennis and two of my home teams, the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Bucks. So like a lot of fans, I went through withdrawal when the COVID-19 quarantine shut down the entire sports world for months.
I’ve had complicated feelings about sports starting up again. Clearly, the health risks for both players and fans are enormous.
Yet, this was supposed to be the year the Bucks finally broke through to win a championship. So I was happy to see the NBA playoffs.
Sadly, the Bucks fizzled once play resumed, but their lasting contribution might be off the court, when they stunned the sports world by refusing to play a game as a protest against the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. No one had ever seen a pro team go on strike as an act of political protest. And for a few tense days, it looked like all NBA players might simply walk away for the remainder of the season.
Sports are complicated. Over the years, they’ve been one of my great joys — and often my escape. But the pleasure comes at a cost. I love football, but I’m also keenly aware of the brain trauma so many players have suffered. And it’s an uneasy spectacle to watch so many athletes — both amateur and professional — compete during this raging pandemic.
"When we watch sports these days, there’s always something you have to grapple with," New York Times sports columnist Kurt Streeter says in our show this week. "It’s a bit of a love/hate thing."
I hope you’ll get a chance to listen to "The Personal Politics of Sports." You’ll hear some great stories.