Op-Ed | Let's Play Ball: Opening Up Sports Brings Hope

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During this time we are looking for small wins and a glimpse of hope at returning to normalcy. Imagine coming home from a long shift or turning on the TV after being in your house all day and watching a live broadcast of your favorite team playing. As removed as we are from professional and collegiate athletics, that win makes you feel a little bit better. It does not matter if there is anyone in the stands because all you care about is that your team won. 

In Field of Dreams James Earl Jones, playing Terence Mann, says “This field, this game -- it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.” 

With Major League Baseball negotiating a July start, we have an All-American sport to look forward to enjoying. I know I am already looking forward to collegiate sports starting up again, especially college football. And who does not enjoy seeing the checkered flag waving at Daytona International Speedway? 

While we are waiting for our industries to open back up, watching sports and being active in our parks relieves our minds for a few hours and let us live in a world where everything is alright. Opening up our parks for walks and other safe activities gives us ways to relieve stress and provide for a healthy mental well-being. It is the small change we need right now. 

During WWII President Franklin Roosevelt was asked if Major League Baseball should cancel the 1942 season. He said no to the suggestion because at the end of the day people needed something that reminded them of everyday norms. Today’s lack of sports is a huge void in our lives, regardless of age, culture or ethnicity. The last two months we have all come together as a state to face COVID-19, which forces us to stay away from one another in the solitude of our homes. But we don’t need to be in the stadium to enjoy sports, we can do it from the safety of our own environment. Children don’t need structured games right now, what they need is an open park to run around in. People of all ages can use parks to stay active, whether it be running, biking, or practicing yoga. It’s difficult to put an exact value on the importance of all forms of sports beginning again, but it is worth taking that step because our lives are better when we have them. 

With the knowledge we have about COVID-19, I believe our parks can continue to open and sports teams will be able to safely practice and compete. What better place to be in than Florida? We are home to countless parks that are perfect for exercise and improving mental health. In regards to a place for professional and collegiate teams to compete, Florida not only has reliable healthcare, but also accommodating weather, numerous stadiums, fields, and hotels that would be more than grateful to have teams come practice and perform. In Daytona Beach we have the Daytona International Speedway, home to the Daytona 500, ARCA, AMA Superbike, IMSA, SCCA, and Motocross. All of which I believe would be able to safely compete. NASCAR has already started coming back with racing starting back on May 17th, which is a great example to see how this new normal can be accomplished. Governor Ron DeSantis has already issued an invitation to any collegiate or professional team that wishes to use our facilities to continue their training and schedule live events. Whether it be professional, collegiate, or amateur, sports are a great way to get part of our economy up and running and bring joy into our homes. We may not be able to fill the stadiums at this time and we still need to practice safe distancing at parks, but I know that with taking the needed precautions we can begin to bring sports back and fulfill a small piece of our lives. 

In the immortal words of the great Vince Lombardi, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” 

It is time for Florida to get up and begin moving towards a brighter, economically strong future. 

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