Martin Smith column: When will sport return - and does it really matter?

Strange times. When people struggle with disasters, emergencies, uncertainty what do they do?

Monday, 16th March 2020, 2:27 pm
Updated Monday, 16th March 2020, 4:14 pm
The Snooker World Championship finals, to be held in Sheffield, are under threat from coronavirus. Photo: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

They turn to distractions. Distractions like bars, cinemas, theatres and sport. Most of all the predictable uncertainty of sport.

People turn to Wednesday, United (and the rest), Cheltenham, and soon the World Snooker Championships at the Crucible.

Will Sheffield’s one truly world class annual contribution to the sporting calendar be allowed to take place?

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Not a chance, though no official announcement has yet been made.

If the breezy chill of Hillsborough’s North Stand is thought to be too much of a haven for bugs to flourish then that warm and shadowy petri dish of clicks and coughs at the Crucible is doomed.

There couldn’t be a better breeding ground for a virus and unless things change dramatically and unexpectedly for the better in the next couple of weeks the Crucible won’t see a frame.

The grand pantomime of the organised sporting calendar has been gloriously distracting us for 200 years and in the 21st century, more than ever before.

But today it’s just another triviality on a list of trivialities that includes everything except life.

The kops at Hillsborough and Bramall Lane may not be the best conditions for a virus to spread but the buses and trams to get people there are. As are the pubs, cafes and queues for pies, tea and toilets.

What will happen to the football season now? Who knows? Does it matter?

Of course it does, livelihoods depend on it. The glorious triviality of sport enriches and even defines many of our lives.

Dedication to a football team, boxer or snooker player is part of life and a great part of many lives. But without being too dramatic we are in unchartered waters.

No-one really knows what is to happen or even the best way of dealing with the virus or the full extent of the myriad problems it will cause.

According to a recent Government ‘briefing’ 80 per cent of the population will probably catch the coronavirus currently terrorising the earth.

For the majority of those it will just be a cold, for many not even that and the sooner most of us get it the sooner we are over it and have immunities.

But others need protection. The way we care for our old and sick tells us what kind of society we are.

So far we aren’t that good.