I miss sports.

I know we’ve had a few flashes of normalcy piercing the pandemic gloom in recent weeks — like the NFL draft or Korean baseball (if watching Korean baseball in the middle of the night can be called normal), or the aspirational release of the NFL schedule. And there are pockets of sports returning to life here and there.

NASCAR and Germany Bundesliga soccer next weekend. The PGA Tour in June. And at least people are talking about playing games, which stands for progress in our current state of suspended animation.

But the closer we get to the apparent return of sports — in whatever form they may have to take — the ache for them seems to grow.

We are reminded daily, almost hourly, about what we miss; what this virus has stolen from us. It is like a line from my (and LSU beat writer Brooks Kubena’s) favorite show, “Frasier”: It’s as if someone snuck into my world and changed all the locks. We are literally locked out of the venues, the special places, we are supposed to be. Like Alex Box Stadium, where LSU was supposed to be playing its final regular-season series this weekend against Alabama.

I miss sports. I miss the thump of a bass drum from a college football band or the sharp brass of a band at a basketball game. I miss the metallic clank as bat meets ball and sends it arcing toward the power alleys at The Box. I miss the sound of a crisply struck iron shot by someone who really knows how; a top-of-the box soccer goal that curves into the corner of the net, eluding the goalkeeper’s straining fingers; or the tennis serve that creases the baseline.

I miss the trivial but at the time oh-so-important bickering over whose team (or better yet, whose uniforms) are tops. I miss overpriced concession stand fare. I even miss that glaze of public intoxication that takes devout fans from volume 10 to 11, but before it spills over into belligerence. Heck, if they put two belligerent fans in an octagon or boxing ring right now, I might be prompted to watch that.

I miss the smells of the stadium, which at Tiger Stadium means bourbon and cigar smoke and sweat. I miss the diesel belch of the idling motor homes, and the heady aroma of the tailgate parties that spill out of them.

I miss a crisp Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, a Sunday afternoon in Mercedes-Benz Superdome no matter what the weather outside, and the days when the Pete Maravich Assembly Center truly puts the “Deaf” in Deaf Dome. I miss the special game days when something big is at stake and the electricity crackling through the stands is almost as visible as lightning.

I miss watching a boneheaded play and the fleeting conviction that we can do better (catch the ball, you idiot!). Then, in almost the next instant, being left breathless by a crossover dribble-drive, a swim move by a defensive end to beat the double-team and sack the quarterback, or a gymnast sticking the landing after a gravity-defying spin through the air as though their feet were magnets.

I miss the brilliant nonchalance of athletes in all their forms. The shortstop who backhands a grounder on a wicked late hop, nails the runner at first with a pinpoint throw then turns and brushes the dirt with his cleats. The race car driver who drafts within two feet of the rear bumper in front of them at 190 mph like they’re going out for a Sunday jaunt (or trying to imitate a guy in a pickup truck filling up my rearview mirror on Interstate 10). Or anytime Mondo Duplantis pole-vaults 19 or 20 feet in the air with one silky set of movements like this, this is something anyone could do.

I miss going to a ballpark and seeing a parent and child take in a game, the child in awe, the parent dreaming that the little person next to them will be out there one day.

I miss the moments that grab us by the emotional throat when we least expect it. Like Joe Burrow coming out for senior night in that “Burreaux” jersey. Or when a veteran is honored on the field during a break in the action. I suspect when the games resume, we’ll be honoring doctors and nurses and paramedics at games and get choked up at their bravery, too.

I miss that part of me that loves all of it. I miss seeing you cheering for your team. I miss that common language we sports fans all share. The unspoken bond that says, “I hope we see something spectacular tonight.”

The documentarian Ken Burns once wrote that baseball is about imperishable hope. That goes for all of sports, really. The one thing we can all cling to is the games will be back. And we will rejoice and feel renewed like we were little children again ourselves.

I miss sports. I know you do, too. Hopefully, we won’t have to miss them much longer still.


Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com