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Let’s face it, it’s been a long old year of thumb-twiddling and many of us have struggled to fill the gaping hole left by our ongoing inability to attend live sport. The roar of the crowd. The Mexican wave. Bathing in the iridescent glow of the floodlights on that proverbial cold rainy night in Stoke. Commiserating with strangers in moments of agonising defeat and embracing them like lovers in that rare moment of ecstatic celebration. It’s probably the same adrenal thrill the ancient Greeks felt back in 776BC when their most cherished chariot racer was first across the finish line in the inaugural Olympic games; the same endorphin rush experienced by Roman spectators when the gladiator Carpophorus defeated a lion, a leopard and a bear in a single battle at the Colosseum in 80AD (if that sounds a little tenuous, it’s only because it feels like 2000 years since we were last able to enjoy the visceral thrills of a live sporting event).

It’s the ultimate collective human experience which many of us took for granted until it was cruelly snatched away by a global pandemic. Now, instead of being united by our shared incandescence at a referee’s apparently questionable eyesight, Covid has consolidated us in mourning the unique shared experience that only live sport could deliver. And having been deprived for longer than we ever imagined, the final whistle on this period of exile can’t come soon enough.

Live sport provides the opportunity to escape our everyday lives. With so many of us having spent the past year Zooming colleagues from the living room, the line between work and leisure is more blurred than ever and sport’s inherent ability to offer temporary respite from the stresses of the office has never been more necessary. Venting one’s frustrations at the TV doesn’t quite deliver the same catharsis as yelling from the stands in unison with thousands of like-minded individuals brought together from all walks of life to ride the rollercoaster of highs and lows. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the human connection arising from such communal human experiences, however fleeting they may be.

Whether it's screaming appreciation for a moment of sporting brilliance or bemoaning a diabolical performance with the woman behind you in the burger queue, live sport offers a form of self-expression rarely afforded to us in everyday life. It offers, not only incredible entertainment, but also a sense of belonging which has an indelible impact on our emotional well-being and positive mental health.

Of course, we still face a long road back to the rapturous stranger-hugging glory days of live spectating. Social distancing and an aversion to crowds will be heavy albatrosses around our necks on our quest for the holy grail of normality. But what the hell, it’s a small price to pay for the promise of a return to the thrills of any kind of sporting attendance. Never mind, live football, rugby or gladiatorial battles. Right now, I’d gladly get fired up about attending the West Midlands regional tiddlywinks championships. Bring it on!

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