My Opinion – Optimistic & Smart

Hoping for a sport-filled new year

Getting back to what we do best … cover wheelchair sports

By Tom Fjerstad

Welcome to the first entirely digital issue of SPORTS ’N SPOKES magazine.

The magazine may be following the trend of the publishing industry, but its content still relies on real, in-person, physically tangible events and activities. If you’re like me, you’ve had enough of the pretend, virtual world and want to get back to enjoying real sports and real activities.

I’m not discounting or minimizing the importance of doing whatever we can to stay active and connected during challenging times, but I’ll never accept the creative alternatives of 2020 as a “new normal.” Athletes such as quad rugby players need to be crashing and bruising, not getting blisters on their fingers from a computer mouse.

The SPORTS ’N SPOKES staff is as anxious to cover real events in 2021 as you are to participate in them. To me, it seems that many sports should be continuing to offer viable, real-life options for participation. Social distancing is a phrase that can’t disappear from our vocabulary soon enough, but until it does, I can’t help but use the grocery store as a measuring stick of acceptable socialization.

If it’s OK to roll up and down the aisles of the store, passing by other shoppers, I think some minor modifications or simple precautions should allow for the return of most of our cherished sports and activities.

I don’t need to go down the list of sports and offer suggestions because I’m sure most of you have already come to your own realizations as to what could work and what would not be acceptable to you.

Team sports are no doubt where the greatest challenges come into play because of the often extremely close proximity of the players. Wheelchair basketball, softball, rugby and similar sports may be some of the last to fully return to a pre-pandemic normal, but I’d like to think we’re smart enough to find a work-around in the real world until that time comes.

Last July, a number of wheelchair softball players got together in Kansas City, Mo., for a few games. They made some minor rule modifications, and everyone had a great time getting out in the fresh air for some much-needed competition and camaraderie. To the best of
 my knowledge, it didn’t turn into a super-spreader event and was a great example of responsible modification and accommodation. 

I really hope 2021 doesn’t turn into a continuation of last year and its never-ending disappointments. The Tokyo Summer Paralympics can’t be postponed again. I understand the sheer size and complexity of this event make last-minute adjustments much more difficult or even impossible. But decisions that may not be either ideal or ultimately even necessary must be made.

Smaller events and competitions have much greater flexibility in this regard, and I hope every attempt is made to make them happen, if at all possible.

Let’s be optimistic, while at the same time being smart about our choices. I’m hopeful for a 2021 filled with wheelchair rugby and other sports being played as they should be and SPORTS ’N SPOKES being there to cover every action-packed moment. 

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