Do professional and college sports really matter …

. . . when Washington, D.C., was an armed camp for Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President of the United States? Media reports had 25,000 military personnel in the nation’s capital Wednesday. Barricades blocked streets. Black fencing as high as a basketball hoop surrounded The Mall, where tens of thousands citizens would normally sit or stand for the ceremonies. Razor wire crowned some sections. Razor wire!

. . . when COVID-19 has killed 406,000 mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, friends? While the pandemic ravages the population and economy, the federal response to now has been pathetic. Despite heroic efforts of drug manufacturers to produce a vaccine, the rollout has been a ball of confusion. Despite the pleading of public health and medical professionals to wear masks, many Americans still do not, flipping a figurative middle finger to science and safety.

. . . when, as the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, the national debt of $21.6 trillion is 100.1 percent of our gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services we produce? Our debt equals $65,454.55 per person and drops the U.S. down to the same minor league as Italy, Greece and Japan. How does that make you feel?

. . . when American schoolchildren, especially those in low-income and rural areas, are falling behind because they are at the mercy of remote learning? Every home does not have a desktop or laptop or high-speed internet access.

. . . when, according to a report on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, one-third of Europeans do not trust the United States? We have a new president, they say, but not a new nation. With 74 million Americans having voted for Trump, they are right.

. . . when the Major League baseball season was reduced to 60 games and the playoffs and World Series limited to one location? For fans of the last-place Red Sox, 60 games were too many.

. . . when NBA, NFL and major college football and basketball schedules have so many holes in them they look like Swiss cheese? The Washington Wizards have had five consecutive games postponed.

. . . when cardboard cutouts replace screaming fans in stadia and arenas across the land and when piped in crowd effects replace live cheering? Spectator sports are not the same without spectators.

. . . when the Rose Bowl, a fixture in Pasadena, Calif., for a century, is moved to Arlington, Texas, just so the families of players can attend?

. . . when the Big 10 votes to cancel the football season, changes its mind and kicks off in late October, and then changes its rules so 5-0 Ohio State can play for the league championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff? 

. . . when the NCAA, which canceled March Madness in 2020, announces that March Madness 2021 will be held in Indianapolis and two other Indiana sites, not at locales around the country?

. . . when the Vanderbilt women’s basketball team joins Duke and others and calls off its season because too many players are Covid compromised? And when the Bryant women’s basketball team pauses because of COVID.

. . . when playing games is third on the priority list for NBA players, as Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press wrote this week? Practicing pandemic safety and protesting racial and social injustices are first and second.

…when the primary reason for playing college and pro games is money, as in millions in television revenue?

Do sports really matter these days? Occasionally. Without the Tampa Bay-New Orleans NFC Division game Sunday, we would not have had the first playoff matchup of Tom Brady, 43, and Drew Brees, 42, and that poignant post-game moment when Brady joined Brees and his family on the field before leaving Mercedes Benz Stadium in New Orleans. The old warriors, who played against each other in the Big 10 eons ago — Brady at Michigan and Brees at Purdue — before becoming future Hall of Famers in the NFL, chatted for a minute and hugged. Then one of Brees’s boys flipped a ball to Brady. TB12 lofted a pass to the right corner of the end zone. Young Brees caught it in stride. Mission accomplished, Brady left.

For that brief moment of affectionate togetherness, sports really mattered. We can hope that the dawn of a new day in Washington will bring us closer to the day when sports really do matter again.