Recently, my days have been spent scrolling through a never-ending Twitter feed.
That’s how it is for most of us. To get the day’s news, most of the world’s internet-savvy consumers aren’t driving or walking to a newsstand. We’re going to Twitter. We’re reading updates from around the world, 140 succinct characters at a time.
And lately, a lot of Twitter has been difficult — even heartbreaking — to read. It is filled with American immigrants telling their stories. It is filled with videos of protests at airports, in public parks, on college campuses and on street corners. It is filled with mothers and fathers crying — some out of happiness at being reunited with a family member that was directly affected by President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, and others, in that same situation, out of overwhelming despair, not knowing what their next move may be.
But something else was nagging me.
After Trump was sworn into office, and after the series of protests that ensued, I had one recurring thought.
Where do sports fit into this?
My first reaction was: Nowhere, you idiot. This is no time for games. This is time for politics and protests and history.
And then I saw a Tweet from Pablo Torre, one of my favorite American sports writers.
After Trump signed an executive order banning travel into the United States from seven select countries, this is what someone publicly wrote to Torre:
“Going back to the Philippines ??? BYE”
“I was actually born in America, which is a country that you are too stupid to ever truly understand.”
He was replying to a person who likely stood behind the popular Twitter mantra: “#StickToSports” — the hashtag hurled as an insult to sports journalists on social media who dare venture outside their realm of expertise to share a thought about the world around them. About the politics of the day. About opinions they hold on the regular news, the important news.
Yes, sports are often an escape. And with the political landscape of the world today, I believe many of us need an escape now more than ever. And that’s OK. Healthy, even.
Although I still can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt as I sit in an air-conditioned sports arena on the weekends, tweeting updates about a college basketball game when the next tweet I see is one about a family separated by hundreds of miles of ocean because of an executive order signed by our president.
And then I take a look at sports Twitter, gently dipping its feet into the untamed waters of politics, using their platforms for good, to spur conversation and spread opinions.
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has tweeted 11 times in the last three days, and all have been about the immigration ban. Brooklyn Nets point guard Jeremy Lin, former NBA player Nazr Mohammed, British Olympic track athlete Mo Farah and others have all shared their thoughts on the immigration ban on Twitter.
And then there are the prominent sports writers, the ones who aren’t just sticking to sports. Zach Lowe, Sarah Spain, Howard Beck, Jemele Hill, Torre and many others.
And so, just like Torre did, I urge all sports journalists and reporters and fans: Don’t stick to sports.
Embrace today’s problems and start a discussion. If you have an opinion, share it. If you see something unjust, say so.
Yes, sports can be used as an effective escape. But then they’re over, and the sobering reality of the world hits you. There will be no droning echoes of a shot clock buzzer or a trophy ceremony to signal the end. It will only continue until our problems are solved.
So, please, escape into sports.
But don’t forget to return.
Ian Cohen is a sports writer. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @icohenb.
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr calls out instructions during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)