Cricket is back soon. Well, in some respects, it is already back. Today there are matches in the Czech Republic, of all places. ‘There is always cricket’ is something I say a lot. And today is no different, despite a global pandemic and worldwide protests against systemic racism, in America and everywhere else.
But cricket as most of us understand it — first class cricket, Test cricket, international cricket — is back in just a few weeks. The first Test between the West Indies and England starts on July 8. A lot can happen in the next 17 days — if 2020 has taught us anything it i has taught us that — but right now it feels like it is going forward. Daily cases are falling in England and have been for a few weeks. And European soccer leagues have been playing for a few weeks now and no players or coaches or officials have gotten sick. There are about a million things that could happen between now and July 8 that would scuttle the game going on as planned, but right now, things look good.
Of course, none of this is how anyone wanted cricket to be back. When all of this first started happening in March, we all looked forward to this game we love — and everything else lost from our lives in the before times — coming back in just a few weeks, with fireworks and celebrations and hugs and a deep sigh that the world was being put back into place. But as the weeks dragged on, we realized more and more that the reopening of the planet was going to be a grim, slow, sad process, and nothing was going to look or feel the same for a very long time.
Here in Minneapolis, bars and restaurants are reopening. They can serve outside on patios, and are allowed 25% capacity indoors, all with masks and social distancing protocols in place. But it doesn’t make me happy like I thought that it would. Instead it just gives me anxiety, that it’s all coming back too soon, that we should have sheltered in place a little while longer. But life, at some point, has to go on. It’s a grim reality. But it’s reality nonetheless.
And cricket is no different. It will come back — if not on July 8 then at some point — but it won’t be the same game we remember. There won’t be the crowds, of course, though honestly I think cricket is one of the few sports that that aspect won’t really affect. I’ve watched County Championship matches on streams where there were more people in my living room than at the ground. But still, it will be different, not the same, a barrier between us and the game that used to be our escape from this big scary old world. We will be able to reach out to cricket, but we won’t be able to touch it, like we used to do, and it will be shadowed with the same darkness that covers the rest of the world. A shadow of death, disease, and relentless change.
The phrase “bio-secure venue” alone shows us just how different this series is going to be from what we are used to.
We will all watch, probably, and there will be moments when we forget we are watching cricket in the time of Coronavirus, but then we will catch ourselves, and we will remind ourselves that the world is on fire, and that nothing is normal, and might not ever be normal again. And that is an uncomfortable, disheartening, terrible realization.
We will all watch, but it won’t be the same. The heaviness that’s been on all our chests since March will be there, and it might be there for a very long time to come. It could be years, or even a decade, before cricket looks like it used to look, and by then the new normal will be the normal, and we won’t even know what it felt like before we all found out about a mysterious illness in mainland China that had sickened dozens.
Yesterday around noon my own personal heaviness came back. I don’t remember what triggered it, I rarely do, but there it was, almost worse than it has ever been. It’s always there, of course, holding me down, pushing me around, putting a veil over all the world, but some days it comes back in full force, and I am reminded that it is still there, that it might always be there. And I sat in the murk and the grime and the filth that is the awful soup in my brain and let it wash all over the rest of my day, and then flow unabated into the future.
We were out for a walk, looking at houses, as we do these days. And there was a house on Mac-Groveland with a little porch with a little table and I thought about how nice it would be to take coffee out there in the mornings with a dog maybe and a book, the morning light soft, the wind still, maybe a lifting haze in the trees across the yard, the sounds of the world waking up to a June day full of promise and hope and blue skies.
But then I remembered. I remember how crappy I felt, how crappy I feel all the time. There is a barrier between me and all that is good in the world, and I can’t reach out and touch that good like I used to do. And I thought about that wonderful morning in some distant future and realized I would probably feel terrible then too, that there was no reason to believe otherwise. I would sit out there with a cup of steaming strong coffee and a book about kings and heroes and for maybe a moment or two, I will forget, but then I will remember, and then I will pull myself back, away from the light, back into the shadows where my heart is.
I wanted to end this post with hope. That intellectually I understand that if I keep taking my medication, and I keep going to therapy, and I keep leaning in the joy I find, I will probably be okay. That I will enjoy those mornings out on that dreamscape. And that we all will enjoy the cricket when it comes back and that the new normal will be enough and the barriers will drop and the game will be enough to make us forget about life and the world for a while.
But today, this morning, that optimism is hard for me to hold onto. The world feels too dark, too dangerous, too sad. And my brain is literally screaming over all of it with the constant and consistent reminders that I am not okay, that I haven’t been okay for over two years, and that I probably won’t ever be okay.
I want the opposite to be true. But the future holds it what it holds. And only time will tell. When that coin gets flipped in Southampton on July 8, only then will we know if it will be enough, and only when the distant fantasy future of mine arrives will I know if I am okay. We keep moving forward, and finding a way, and we keep getting back up until we can’t.
Title of post from here: https://twitter.com/matthewtbecker/status/1273649329119641605/photo/1