Shaping Up to the Virus

Athletes have been affected in many different ways by the postponement of the Olympics and other sporting events.  Some are finding novel ways to train during the COVID-19 crisis.  Hockey and basketball players are strengthening and sharpening elbows normally used surreptitiously against opponents by using them rather than their hands on a daily basis to press elevator buttons, open doors and activate the buttons on TV remotes.  Hockey fans particularly anticipate the resumption of their sport with their favorite players having even fewer teeth and instigating even more bench-clearing brawls.

Others have found ways to use social distancing to maintain conditioning and refine technique.  Some imagine they are football halfbacks employing the full repertoire of head fakes, dekes and shifts in direction normally used to avoid coming within six feet of unruly children in the supermarket.  Nordic skiers facing a paucity of snow as well as self-isolation have found new, creative uses for their ski poles as enforcers of social distance and not only wash but wax their hands after each encounter.  Soccer players have refined their ability to dive to the ground in faux agony in order to draw fouls whenever anyone approaches within seventy-three inches of them.  Do not be surprised if you are handed a yellow card or two on your next trip to the post office or pharmacy.  And then there is the gymnast, Simone Beal.  She maintains proper vertical as well as horizontal distance by vaulting and somersaulting over people on her way to the grocery store.

Of course, some people need vary their routines only slightly.  Those who normally pump iron at the gym can volunteer to hoist heavy bags of groceries, books and exercise equipment for those storing up on provisions, possibly receiving tip income as a bonus.  Marathoners run long distances, sometimes the whole 26.2 miles, in search of toilet paper.  Bicycle riders range even farther when they can be persuaded to dismount from their Pelotons.

Not all sports fare so well.  Synchronized swimming teams have found it difficult to practice in separate pools often located miles apart; several have been electrocuted while trying to communicate underwater with electronic devices.  Dreadfully slow sports like baseball, tennis and golf will become, if possible, even more tedious.  Many tennis players will be loathe to shake hands with their rackets as they have been taught, let alone with an opponent, and will adopt bizarre ways of holding the racket, leading to many complications or playing squash against imaginary opponents.  Others will not only towel off incessantly between points but bounce the ball dozens of times, rubbing it with hand sanitizer each time, and then hit the ball against a backboard.  The backboard will return it as many times as Roger Federer but with even less emotion.  Baseball players obsessing about not touching their faces will step out of the batters’ box and fidget with their hats or pick up the resin bag even more often than they do now before they realize there is no one else on the field or even in the stadium.  Golfers in lonely, solitary practice rounds will confer with their caddies (by skype, not in person) after every shot.

And consider one of the oldest athletic endeavors of them all, track and field.  Historically, even before the current crisis, dropped batons in relay races have led to lost medals and world records. Picture the new perils as the runners lather them in soap and warm water while attempting to throw, rather than, pass them on to the next runner.

But most of all, even for HumorOutcasts, this virus is no laughing matter so be careful, stay safe and stay as sane as you can.

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