BIRD’S-EYE VIEW: A Much Needed Pause
Blog #15 – June 18, 2020
by John Peterson
Hear me out for a second.
Before you feel the urge to throw your phone or Tweet at me to “stick to sports”, give this a thought.What if 2020 wasn’t a disaster, but an opportunity for growth? What if this time without sports has provided us a chance to prioritize how we treat each other?
I miss sports as much as the next person. After all, it’s the life I’ve chosen. I’ve dedicated 11 years of my life to broadcasting hockey and I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve earned. I’m fortunate to work for a first-class organization here in Kalamazoo that encourages growth, involvement in the community and teamwork.
Part of personal growth is understanding real-life issues, educating ourselves, and actively trying our best to make the world a better place. That is what leaders do.
I want to lead. It’s important to use my platform in a positive way, and sticking to sports would simply make me one-dimensional.
Let me be perfectly clear. This blog has nothing to do with politics. It’s about caring for each other and putting others first, regardless if they’re friends or perfect strangers.
We are all, by nature, selfish. If something doesn’t affect us, we tend to avoid the conversation because it may be uncomfortable. I can be better. We can all be better.
All I’m asking is that we try.
EMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING
Let’s start with the original story that brought an abrupt pause to the entire sports landscape, including the cancellation of the final month of the K-Wings season. COVID-19, the pandemic commonly referred to as the Coronavirus, halted everything as we knew it.
Initially there was constant debate whether this was a serious concern or an overreaction. I’ll even admit, I was a skeptic in the early stages.
The more I read about COVID-19 and listened to the experts, including Dr. Fauci and the Center of Disease Control, the more I understood. This was going to be different and more complex than any public health concern of recent memory.
States hit the hardest in the early weeks included New York, New Jersey, Michigan and a few others. To combat the spread of the virus, we were among the states who enforced stricter lockdown policies.
Two weeks of quarantine became four, then six, and before we knew it, 12 weeks. Was it easy? No. We’d be lying if we said it was. Were there some good days and some bad days? Absolutely.
At one point, Michigan had the second-most confirmed cases in the United States. Now, as the state loosens its restrictions and phases in reopening, we’re seeing the success Michigan has had in flattening the curve. Michigan’s daily confirmed cases have been declining faster than most of the country.
By comparison, here’s a look at Florida and Texas, who had fewer restrictions and are now seeing a big spike in cases. I’ve also included a graph of the entire United States to show where we’re at. At the time this blog was posted, there have been over 2,137,000 confirmed cases and just under 117,000 American lives lost—in just 12 weeks.
Here’s the point I’m trying to make. Sure the economy has taken a huge hit. Sure many businesses are struggling and millions of Americans are unemployed. But at what point to we start valuing public health and our family, friends, neighbors and strangers’ safety ahead of material things?
The economy will bounce back. Businesses with thrive again. It may take time, but we will get through this together. That’s why it’s so important for all Americans to take this seriously. The faster we do, the faster we can get back to the activities and routines we love, including sports.
Wearing a facemask in public might not feel comfortable or important to you, but it is. That facemask isn’t to protect you from contracting COVID-19. It’s to help prevent you from spreading it to others, in the event you already have the virus.
That’s the message I’m trying to get across today. Let’s start caring a little more about perfect strangers.
TIME TO PROVE IT
Let’s transition into the second major story of 2020. The fight to end racial discrimination.
This important issue has been overlooked and swept under the rug for far too long in this country. Following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and George Floyd in Minneapolis, protesters took to the streets to say, “enough is enough”.
What transpired has been into the largest civil rights movement since the late 1960s.
These were not just isolated incidents or unfortunate events. These were three more examples of systemic racism that has crippled this country for hundreds of years. In the past three weeks, millions of people of all races have come together to form peaceful protests in all 50 states, as well as in several major countries around the world.
What does that tell you? I think this movement is the most positive thing the happen in 2020, albeit stemming from tragic circumstances.
Racism exists. Prejudice exists. Injustice exists. We can’t deny it any longer. We can only do everything in our power to do better as a society.
One of my favorite initiatives throughout professional hockey is the “Hockey is for Everyone” campaign. Still in its infant stages, “Hockey is for Everyone” is intended to promote the sport and spread the love of the game to people of all backgrounds. It is a positive step towards equality and inclusion in hockey, no matter an individual’s race, gender, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, or background.
But it’s just a step. There is still work to do. While I can’t share details just yet, the K-Wings will be taking the “Hockey is for Everyone” theme to new heights in the 2020-21 season.
Back to the point of this blog. Maybe now is the perfect time to press the pause button and recalibrate. We all need to do our part to listen, learn and understand why these injustices are still happening 50+ years after the Civil Rights Movement. To do nothing or to take the “it doesn’t affect me” approach is enabling the problem.
The discussion about racism with family members or friends might be uncomfortable, but the time is now to have those conversation if you haven’t already. The time is now to read about history and learn about the struggles others go through on a day-to-day basis. The time is now to be less selfish and more empathetic.
Again, let me be perfectly clear. This isn’t about picking sides. There is only one side: equality.
First of all, thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far. I understand that I am not the most qualified person to speak on these topics, but hopefully it shows that I care. I want to use my platform to make a difference, not just in sports, but in the community.
One of the things I love most about Kalamazoo is the way the community rallies together to support a great cause. Whether it’s fighting the good fight for cancer research, donating thousands of Teddy Bears to Bronson Children’s Hospital, saluting our hometown heroes or spreading the love on “Hockey is for Everyone” Night, this hockey family cares about each other. I’m proud to be a part of it.
In the coming weeks, I’ll get back to some hockey-themed blog posts. Until then, be safe and think of ways you can make a difference.
Bird’s-Eye View is a Kalamazoo Wings blog, written by the team’s Director of Public Relations/Broadcaster John Peterson twice weekly. The thoughts, opinions and behind-the-scenes stories are that of the writer alone and not a reflection of the organization as a whole. Fans are welcome to submit questions and ideas for future blog posts to email@example.com. Enjoy!