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Pandemic, Anxiety, and Football

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Some words.

Goodison Park - Everton FC Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

I haven’t been around here much recently. There was a time when I would write something about Everton as much as six, seven, or eight times a week. I miss doing that. The reality is that I received a promotion at my job, which increased my workload. We have a new baby that will shortly enter the world, and we’re moving across the country in May. What’s good, Portland?

These are all reasons I have, to varying degrees at one time or another, let this football club slip to the wayside. I’m sure you understand. Reality bites. It was not until very recently that I realized what I was missing, and reality began to take on a different meaning.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled - fought - with severe, crippling anxiety. We’re not talking about the kind where you don’t like to speak in front of a crowd. We’re talking about the kind where every small twitch and every minor pain becomes a terminal illness in your head. Every thought you have is chased down and wrestled by another thought from the back of your mind that feels like it comes from an entirely different person.

This is not an easy thing for me to talk about. I’m not an open person, as a general rule. I don’t like to share. I have, through the years, gotten help. I have good doctors, good treatments, and a strong support system. I’m a functioning adult with an extremely privileged life. But it never really goes away. Instead of a cure, you’re left to constantly manage, maintain, and put one foot in front of another.

One of the most effective ways I manage my anxiety is by escaping through sports. When Dominic Calvert-Lewin hits the lawnmower celebration, or Bernard skips past three defenders with the joy of a toddler in a mud puddle, I feel that. They’re moments to escape my own head, and experience something good with no real strings attached.

I want Everton to do well. I enjoy when they win and I feel gratified when they finish in a table position that is considered a success. The thing is, though, I don’t really care. If that makes me less of a fan, I accept your judgment, but being better than the team or person across from you is not why I watch. I watch because for 90 minutes on Saturday morning, I don’t have to worry about work, my bills, my mortality, or any of the rest. It is in a very real sense medicinal.

COVID-19 spread quickly, and our sports were taken from us nearly as fast. This was the right decision. Playing behind closed doors was a terribly foolish idea. These are matters of life and death, and if sports being canceled means that we have a better chance to defeat this pandemic, then so be it. You won’t hear a cross word out of me.

The trouble is that it leaves us without our favorite distraction. I have so much time on my hands now, and it’s very, very easy to slip into a panicked, worried state that lasts days on end. Will my newborn be safe and healthy? Am I going to unknowingly contract this awful disease without symptoms, and kill one of my elderly family members? Will it be safe to travel across the country soon?

Whenever it is that Everton comes back into our lives, I’ll get back my precious several hours each week where I won’t have to worry about any of it. It’ll be glorious, and I’ll be grateful. Lord knows that my poor copy of NBA 2K20 could use a break.

The last thing I want is a pity party. I’ll be fine. What I want you to remember, though, is that one of the greatest, most noble things we can do right now is be kind to one another. You don’t know what someone else is going through. They may not be sick, but they may not be okay, either.