With heightened COVID numbers raising tension levels in the area, thankfully we have sports to help ease our pain.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Wade EvansonAaron Rodgers may have said it best when he told the Green Bay Packers faithful to R-E-L-A-X following the team's 1-2 start in 2014.

But, in an effort to do just that, let's consider just what we have to help us beyond a deep breath, a "chill pill" or an adult libation.

To be clear, all the aforementioned are fine — I guess. I've admittedly never seen or tried a "chill pill," but a deep breath never hurts, and in a pinch — and in a responsible manner — a glass, bottle or 1.5-ounce vessel of adult sustenance has been known to aid in the process.

Yet, as fall approaches, sports are again offering us the distraction we all need from a virus that simply won't go away.

COVID continues to do its thing. Across the country, numbers continue to spike, and it's hard to get beyond a vaccination conversation outside the walls of your home.

Unlike many of the self-proclaimed experts shouting from their proverbial rooftops, I'm not here to tell you what to do. I have my opinion, like you have yours, but what I've learned in recent months — and likely more than a year — is that I'm not changing your opinion and you're not changing mine. People have made their decision and like it or not — and often for reasons that make less sense than a penny (you can thank Foghorn Leghorn for that) — they're going down with their ship.

So, rather than banging your head against the wall over nonsensical, irrational and/or simple hardheaded behavior, I recommend turning to sports for an escape from the thing keeping you from the life we used to all lead before everything changed.

We're essentially a week away from college and high school football, a week longer from the NFL, and just days from soccer, volleyball and cross country kicking off the 2021-22 prep sports year. That matters for a lot of reasons, the primary one being that a year ago, that option didn't exist.

In August 2020, the NBA was playing in a "bubble," half of the country's college football teams had canceled their seasons, and high schools were more concerned with getting their kids into the classroom than onto the field.

Understandably, safety was the primary concern, but lost in the concern for physical harm was awareness of the mental detriment that stems from running and hiding from something others found ways of working around.

It's my hope that we've gotten beyond that. We are, in many cases, back at work, even traveling to an extent. Sports organizations have found ways to safely practice and compete despite the ongoing presence of the virus. It needs to be and should be taken seriously, but at the same time, we should continue finding ways to responsibly live our lives in the best ways possible, and sports are part of that process.

If you have kids, you probably understand that better than most. After all, the joy I get from an NFL Sunday, college football Saturday, or postseason Major League Baseball game likely pales in comparison to that in which parents receive from watching their son or daughter score a goal, a touchdown, or cross the finish line first.

That's what life's about, right? Watching their hard work manifest itself in ways that will not only help them going forward, but also fulfill them here and now.

This last school year was a disaster. It's been my experience that in a private moment, teachers, administrators and coaches will tell you that too.

Yes, it was of value to get kids back in the classroom, if even for a couple of months, and the compressed sports year was at least a viable means of closure for a senior class that lost a lot over the previous year and a half. But while of value, that value was limited by questions we now have answers to, and hopefully, we'll remember that when cooler heads are needed to prevail.

I love sports, and if you're reading this, you likely do too. Yes, there are obviously more important things, but at the same time, it's the little things in life that make it so worth living. Music, friendships, pets, hobbies, the outdoors, much more, and yes, sports. Not only do they deliver us joy, but they offer a distraction from the things that continually sap it from us.

So, relax. Take a deep breath, a "chill pill," or a drink if you're so inclined, but if you like sports, enjoy them, because they're here to help you do just that — and let's hope it stays that way.

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