OPINION: What sports have taught us in the last nine months

The Kansas State student section celebrates a touchdown during K-State football's 69-31 loss on Dec. 5, 2020. Bill Snyder Family Stadium was reduced to 25 percent capacity throughout the season as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Someday soon, hopefully not far away, when we are all vaccinated, sports fans can gather in large numbers again.

Almost surely, Bill Snyder Family Stadium will fill to the brim this fall. Tailgating, socialization and high-fives and hugging in jubilation will be back. It’ll seem as if the 2020 seasons never happened — a distant memory.

However, let’s not forget how COVID-19 changed the sports world as we know it, especially here at Kansas State. Because believe it or not, COVID-19 didn’t just have negative effects.

Centralized scheduling to eliminate travel and possible COVID-19-intake renewed old rivalries, something all sports fans had been looking for. Longer conference slates added a much-needed increased impact of conference play.

To top it off, athletes played an eligible-free year, giving fans a taste of what’s to come in the future without losing a year.

Now yes, contact tracing brought huge road bumps for teams — especially men’s basketball, who didn’t gel until the end of the year. Still, that extra year of eligibility is huge for K-State athletics, with both Mike McGuirl and Skylar Thompson coming back for super senior seasons.

From a sports reporter’s standpoint, many changes have been made. Zoom press conferences have their challenges and issues, but the accessibility offers more opportunities for interviews and access to other teams.

This past year also brought forward important social justice movements and the athlete empowerment movement. Transparency from athletes themselves has opened up a whole new world — and opportunities for all — that will remain a factor for years to come.

To put it even clearer, sports have brought us closer together.

What these last nine months have taught us is that we’ll never stop watching sports and they will always play a huge factor in society — and we’ll definitely never take them for granted again.

These months have also taught us that sports aren’t all just fun and games, but rather integral parts of our society with long-lasting influences and impacts. Sports bring us comfort and provide a place for common ground.

It’s also proven that adversity is temporary. Whether it’s Nijel Pack missing games because of COVID-19 and coming back stronger, or fans overcoming whatever it may be, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

The one thing COVID-19 can’t change is the resiliency of sports.

Marshall Sunner is the Collegian’s assistant sports editor and a junior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.