Thank you, sports fans — thank you from the bottom of my self-quarantined heart. I needed the lift you gave me on Sunday, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
It has been a rough few weeks, as the reality of the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread has descended upon the world. Those of us committed to do our part to stave off the worst of the pandemic have settled into relative isolation at home (seriously, stay home and wash your damn hands).
Sunday morning around 9:30 a.m. here in the midwest, I replied to a tweet with one of my favorite pictures. About an hour after the Cubs clinched their 2016 World Series title in Cleveland, I saw Bill Murray and Ryne Sandberg chatting in the hallway right outside the visiting clubhouse. Both were drenched in champagne and deliriously happy. Sandberg looked more than a little starstruck. I snapped a pic, and it still makes me smile. It will certainly always be one of my favorites.
After posting the pic, I had a thought: “Why not see what favorite sports photos other people have on their phones?” It’s Sunday morning, and we were all going a bit stir crazy. I could use the distraction, and surely the other handful of people who saw the tweet could, too.
I worded it intentionally so that it was open to interpretation: “What’s your favorite sports picture on your phone?”
I’ve been floored by the response, quite honestly. As I’m writing this, it’s early afternoon on Monday, and the replies and quote-tweets have not slowed even one bit. To write this, I had to close down the Twitter browser window and turn notifications off on my phone.
And, of course, it’s not just the quantity of the response — It’s the quality. It’s variety. It’s the way sports can bring us together. It’s elation of victory and crushing disappointment of defeat, and it’s the thrill of just competing. It’s the pride in watching a son or daughter wearing a team uniform, and it’s the pride of attending a ballgame with an aging parent.
And the feelings behind the responses were the same, no matter who responded. Chipper Jones, with his 1.1 million Twitter followers, quote-tweeted this:
He tweeted it for the same reason TJ, with his 42 followers, picked this as his favorite sports picture.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to share some of my favorites with you. No, I’m not sticking to the “pick one” rule, because I didn’t hold you to it.
Also: These aren’t the only great ones, or even close to the only great ones. They’ve rolled in so quickly, so overwhelmingly, that despite my best efforts there are lots I haven’t even seen yet. If you replied and I didn’t comment or favorite — I tried to do that, as much as possible, because I appreciate you taking the time — it’s because I was probably running after my 19-month-old daughter as she chased the cat around.
There were personal photos aplenty:
Looks weird but my dad was pretending to be sad in this photo at Citi Field at the end of last season. Long story to explain why he was making the face. Two days later, he went into cardiac arrest in surgery and died later that week. This odd photo is the last one he ever took. pic.twitter.com/AmRSLDW4O3
— Robert Aitken Jr. (@RobertAitkenJr) March 23, 2020
Ballparks and sunsets was a theme that never grew old.
Candid shots of ballplayers away from their chosen playing field — like HANK AARON FISHING! — popped up, often selfies with fans. Yet another reminder to the athletes: You taking 15 seconds to smile, sign or pose can create a lifetime fan. When you have that opportunity, make the time.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of watching your child compete (hey, I taught BabyGirl to dunk yesterday … kinda).
Some of my fellow sports scribes contributed, too.
And there were, of course, classic sports photos from professional games.
But this one? This might be my favorite thread of the bunch.
Right? How cool is that?
Anyway, thanks again. And keep them coming.