A message of hope and optimism on a surreal Easter Sunday

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Iowa fans perform the Wave at Kinnick Stadium in 2018

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - There is so much to miss about sports, even the agony of defeat is better than what we have now as a nation in lock down.

The surreal has turned real, and what we used to take for granted, is more vulnerable than previously thought.

Sports in addition to giving us excitement, fulfillment and a fun diversion from the daily grind of life also helps to mark the passage of time.

March Madness and the opening day of Major League baseball marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

The Master’s golf tournament, spring football and the Triple Crown in horse racing takes us from spring to the doorstep of summer.

Football takes us from fall to winter and then basketball and wrestling take us from winter to spring.

But now as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, sports isn’t there to help lead the way from one season to another.

It feels like life is at a standstill due to the pandemic with the future on hold.

It’s boring.

It's costly.

It’s scary.

It’s frustrating.

And for some, it’s dangerous, and even deadly.

But as I write this column on Easter Sunday, I do so with hope and optimism because we will ultimately beat this highly contagious virus.

To me, Easter always has stood for hope, and for the power of faith and family.

My day started with a phone call from my brother-in-law in Michigan who just wanted to say Happy Easter and to check up on me.

About an hour later, my 69-year old next door neighbor knocked on my front door and wanted to know if I needed anything from the store.

He stood about 10 feet from me and had his face guarded by a shield.

I told him that I could sure use a six-pack of Coors Lite bottles. And then about an hour later, I heard a knock on my door, and when I opened the door, there was a six-pack of Coors Lite bottles sitting there, as my neighbor stood in the driveway smiling.

His wife then called me a few minutes to later to say that she was making a Hawkeye mask for me to wear whenever I leave my house.

These are strange times, but even a global pandemic can’t erase the human spirit and our willingness to help others.

I marvel when I go to the grocery store and see the workers, young and old, putting themselves at risk so our lives can have a sense of normalcy.

I often say a prayer for them, and for everyone else who is on the frontline of this outbreak, especially the health care workers whose courage and determination truly is heroic.

There will be sports again, hopefully, sooner than later, but only when it’s safe.

I wouldn’t begin to guess when that time will come because that would be reckless and unnecessary because what do I know as a sports writer?

The only thing I can offer on this Easter Sunday is hope, and like Andy Dufresne said in the classic movie “The Shawshank Redemption,” hope is a wonderful thing, perhaps the best of things.

Hawkeye fans have so much to be proud about, and to look forward to once this nightmare ends.

The Iowa football team is coming off a five-year stretch where it won 47 games, which is the most wins in program history over five years.

The Iowa football team is also led by Kirk Ferentz, one of the classiest coaches in all of sports.

The Iowa men’s and women’s basketball teams were both locks to make the NCAA Tournament, while the Iowa wrestling team was considered the heavy favorite to win its first national title in a decade.

The Iowa baseball team had a 10-5 record, while the Iowa softball team was 17-5 when their seasons ended abruptly.

But the reason to be proud and hopeful goes beyond just wins and losses.

Take Fran McCaffery, for example.

He might be one of the most misunderstood coaches in college sports because he sometimes gets upset during the heat of the moment.

But the same Fran McCaffery who might lose it during a timeout every now and then also encouraged star junior center Luka Garza to test the NBA Draft process this spring.

The same Fran McCaffery who might slam a clipboard during a timeout, or scream at an official, also has made it his life’s mission to raise money and awareness for cancer research.

As great as Spencer Lee is as a wrestler, he’s a better person according to those who know him well.

Iowa is also home of the Wave, perhaps the greatest new tradition in sports.

It is easier to remain hopeful when you think about all the good people that give us reason for hope.

Happy Easter, and remember to stay home if you can and wash your hands.

We'll get through this together.