This June, I sensed something different in the air.
Long gone were the nervous energies of daily life and what would come next. Daily new coronavirus cases dropped to triple digits in Los Angeles for the first time since March 2020. It seemed like everything was back to normal on June 15 when the state “reopened.”
Masks went inside tucked away and a post-pandemic life awaited outside the door.
Life without masks lasted a couple of weeks with no masks. Now, they’re back — for both vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens.
You may be wondering, “this is the sports section, I don’t want to read about the coronavirus.” Unfortunately, there is no escape from it.
It doesn’t care if you’re a five-star football recruit from Los Angeles or a volleyball star from Orange, so why should I act like it doesn’t exist?
I can guarantee that for most of this semester’s column, which is still about all things Los Angeles sports, the coronavirus will be part of it. It’s why this sports season will be yet another one stuffed with coronavirus cases and unpredictability. We can act like things are all going back to normal, but in reality, we’re far from it.
Vaccines still need to be distributed and masks put on before we can tailgate the virus away. However, things are not as bleak as what I’ve written.
The world, and LA itself, is in a much better place than it was a year ago. Almost all pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted for the time being and life is slowly, but surely getting back to normal.
It’s a promising time for USC Athletics. Fans and students will finally be able to support athletes in person. The lost season will hopefully be fulfilled by increased engagement and show some signs of normalcy.
I’m not in a position to give recommendations, but this is my column so I will do it. I’d recommend not only supporting the main sports like football or basketball but going to the lesser supported ones on campus. It’s imperative to do so, especially because of the lost year of attendance.
The pandemonium that ensues with Trojan football is, well, still here. Many questions still need answering like the offensive line depth, wide receivers and, of course, if junior quarterback Kedon Slovis can go back to his freshman self.
Women’s volleyball is back from a 7-8 season and hoping to build on something for the future. They finished the season on a four-game winning streak, notching wins against UCLA, Arizona and Colorado. It’s a promising time for them to establish themselves as legitimate contenders this season.
Both football and women’s volleyball will be the early test on whether the conditions and restrictions put in place will work this semester.
Vaccination rates are high across football with head coach Clay Helton mentioning over 90% of the team is vaccinated. Women’s volleyball is yet to announce its statistics.
There are things to be happy about. Another season brings new expectations and excitement about possible results.
As fans fill the stands, let’s hope it’s permanent, not temporary.
Anthony Gharib is a junior sports editor and columnist who discusses all things to do with Los Angeles sports.