1

Football’s coronavirus void makes you appreciate every moment of the game

The last professional football we watched together, before the coronavirus emptied the streets and the stadiums, was the 70th minute of Liverpool’s home leg against Atletico Madrid last Wednesday in the Champions League. The Reds were up 1-0 when my son Sam and I had to leave for his indoor footy final. We turned off the TV, the screen went black, and Sammy grabbed his boots, out the door.

He’s 12 years old and plays; I’m 46 and coach. Our Team Navy had won the league and now faced our archrivals, Team Purple. I felt like we were going to win. Sam was less certain. He warned me on the drive that he might cry if we lost, and I couldn’t be mad if he did.

By the time we took to the turf, my phone informed me that Liverpool were up 2-0 in extra time, and I relayed the score to Sam. He’s been Liverpool for most of his young life, his first season as a genuine fan having ended with Steven Gerrard’s slip. There would be no falling short this year.nike jerseys nfl cheap1

Sam played the way a storm eats the shore. He scored two quick goals to give us our own 2-0 lead. “Let’s go!” he shouted, pumping his little fists. His feet barely touched the ground.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

Football had lifted us to the happy heights it has always taken my beautiful boy and me. It is our principal shared experience. I play and coach and write about it. Sam plays and talks and dreams about it. We know each other so well, we love each other so well, in part because we know and love the same thing outside of ourselves.

But then Team Purple came on. I felt helpless to stop them. All our kids tried. We just couldn’t hold them back. In minutes, our 2-0 lead turned into a 5-3 loss.

After, we elbow-bumped the victors rather than shaking their hands, a small concession to the bug that was surely about to run its minimal course. I gave out silver medals and told Team Navy’s boys and girls how much I had loved watching them play. More elbow bumps, except for Sam. He came in for a hug.

Then I checked my phone again, and Liverpool had also lost somehow, 3-2, a reality almost too strange to digest in the minutes before our entire reality became an impossible fiction. I showed Sam, and now he came in for another hug. It had been a very bad hour for the family business.

Sam left the arena with his mum. I had another game there later that night, this time as a player, old even among other old men, and I sat in the quiet and waited for it to begin. I had no idea what was coming. None of us did. By Friday, everything would be stopped.