Why the EPL season must finish: Neil Humphreys
Football brings hope and closure amid coronavirus uncertainty
Hope sustains us. Without it, we have little choice but to wallow in our existential misery.
Hope supposedly separates us from other animals. Only it doesn't. Animals have hope, too. Pet owners know this.
Watch a dog as its owner reaches for the cupboard with the tinned dog food.
The eyes widen. The tongue flaps. The tail wags from side to side like an overexcited metronome.
The giddy canine expects food. The dog is hopeful.
And right now, that dog is all of us and the tinned meat in the cupboard is the English Premier League season.
We need that door to reopen. The timing is unimportant. We're prepared to wait. But at some point, the door must reopen.
And yet, it's easy to imagine an appalled response to such a seemingly inconsequential ambition.
Hope is a precious, finite commodity, one that shouldn't be wasted on 11 multi-millionaires knocking a ball around for our viewing pleasure. There are greater needs elsewhere.
But this isn't an either-or proposition. It goes without saying that all our energy, focus, and, yes, hope should be directed entirely towards battling the coronavirus at the moment (but it's worth repeating anyway, just to appease the literal-minded).
Still, there's no harm in yearning for a crumb of comfort when this is over. Without a light at the end of the tunnel, there's little point in inching our way through the tunnel.
Hope cannot defeat Covid-19. Only the real heroes in the medical profession can do that. But hope offers a tantalising glimpse of something better.
Winning a title, qualifying for the Champions League, finishing above a local rival or avoiding relegation feel like selfish aspirations now, but they are a flickering match in a dark tunnel. They keep us going.
And that's not selfish. That's essential for human existence.
The EPL suspension has been extended to April 30. Honestly, looking at the horrific coronavirus numbers in Italy, Spain and Britain, resuming the league in May is looking increasingly unlikely as well.
But the date doesn't matter. Restart the campaign in July, August or September, or even at Christmas. Abort next season if necessary, but not this one.
This season is growing into something greater than the sum of its parts, becoming a symbolic act of defiance. Covid-19 is already taking so much from all of us, but it can't take the EPL season.
This is one trivial, perhaps even silly, battle that we can take charge of. The virus is currently dictating the present and the short-term future, but there's no need to hand it the keys to the past, too.
Postpone this season and Covid-19 obliterates recent history as well.
Even West Ham United's vice-chairman Karren Brady had to step back from her self-centred comments about declaring this season null and void (and potentially sparing the Hammers a fall through the relegation trapdoor).
Covid-19 has commandeered Euro 2020, most of the current sporting calendar and will probably consume the Tokyo Olympics in the near future. It has stolen memories we don't even have yet.
Covid-19 is rewriting sporting history that has yet to be written, why should it be allowed to throw away the most recent chapter in the EPL, too?
As we self-isolate, withdraw from loved ones and hang on to cracked rice bowls, the sense of helplessness, powerlessness even, threatens to be overwhelming.
Hope is pretty much all we have. So wishing for the eventual return and conclusion of the EPL season isn't part of a petty, self-serving agenda, but a natural instinct to reassert control wherever possible.
It's not about myopic Reds wanting to end that 30-year wait above all other considerations any more than it's about Red Devils wanting to finish in the Champions League spots to reassert their credentials. It's the distant dream of restoring a semblance of normality.
There's nothing selfish about seeking to lead a normal life again. And football is an integral part of normal life.
If this EPL campaign isn't completed, then the season will be held in a surreal state of permanent suspension forever. It existed, but it was never finished. Games were won, but every team lost to Covid-19.
And we can't have that.
The EPL must finish what it started. Our hope depends on it.