Considering the college basketball season was cancelled last year and we never got a March Madness, which is one of my favorite things in life, I have probably been in low-key bracket withdrawal ever since. Now that we are so close—the conference tournaments took place this week, and the Big Dance begins next week—I have been watching more games than normal.
On Thursday, I felt like staying up late, and after the last game of the night, I decided to watch SportsCenter on ESPN. It’s been a while since I watched it regularly, in part because over the years the show has declined a ton in quality. So I wasn’t expecting much, but they had a couple of their veteran anchors behind the desk who were channeling the spirit of the old days, when I watched Sportscenter during sleepovers at my Bubbe and Zayde’s apartment—a rare treat, since we didn’t have cable at home. The networks had much less original programming at that time, and after midnight ESPN would start replaying the final edition of Sportscenter over and over until morning. Sometimes I would keep watching the repeats, and I can still vividly remember this one segment about the 1996 Chicago Bulls chasing the all-time NBA wins record.
Thursday was March 11, which marked exactly one year since the NBA shut down its season when one of its players tested positive for the coronavirus. That was the moment that everything got real for me, and I will never forget it. March 11 was also the day the WHO declared Covid a pandemic. We’re about to hit a lot of these anniversaries. I hadn’t totally realized the gravity of all this, but then SportsCenter rolled a 10-minute documentary segment revisiting the NBA’s decision to go on “hiatus.” (I can’t find the clip, but this article is like a more in-depth written version.)
Watching this segment felt really weird. You know how you see footage from 20 or 25 years ago, a time that you lived through, and all of a sudden everything looks incredibly dated? This felt like that too, even though it was just a year ago. It was like something from another era of history, and almost like something I hadn’t even experienced. At the same time, I started getting really emotional, because of course I had experienced it. Had I really processed it, though? Has it really been a year? Looking back at March 2020, the whole thing feels like some kind of out-of-body experience. Is this what trauma is like? I’m lucky to have not endured much real trauma in my life. This was a real trauma that we all made it through together, and one that, I now realize, we will probably all be processing for a long time.
Ashley and I watched a TED talk by Esther Perel about the problem of how to reconcile the contrasting needs for love and desire in a relationship. That’s the basic theme, and there is such a large volume of ideas that she fits into this short piece. Perel is the author of the book Mating in Captivity, a title that has taken on new meaning during this pandemic. Keeping desire and novelty alive in long-term relationships has probably always been hard, but it’s that much more difficult in lockdown when everything feels static and nothing seems to change from day to day. Perel is a marvel—she rarely seems to pause even to breathe—and this makes her talk feel pretty dense; it’s a lot to take in, but on the flip side, you can’t fail to learn a few things.
That’s all I’ve got. Please take care, write back if you can—how do you feel about these Covid anniversaries?—and I’ll see you next week.