This past weekend, ice hockey fans got to watch a live National Hockey League game , a play-off one nonetheless. In a vacuum this may seem trivial, but in the context of 2020 it felt like a gift from the heavens. Like billions of sport fans around the world, we now have a serious form of escapism, a foxhole to dive into as we navigate this global pandemic, and here in Hong Kong, restrictive measures in place trying to contain a third wave of the coronavirus. The leagues which have returned to play now include the English Premier League which wrapped up play already, the National Basketball Association, the NHL, Major League Baseball and, in early September, they will be joined by the National Football League. These are the world’s biggest and most profitable sporting leagues, along with cricket’s Indian Premier League, set to kick off in the United Arab Emirates in September, and Spain’s La Liga, which is also set to return next month for a new season. What once felt like an impossibility is now reality: sport is back, hallelujah! Many pundits lamented games without fans would not cut it, but it appears sport fans don’t care. Ratings have been off the charts. At one point over the weekend 4.1 million fans watched LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers play Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers. It is a clear sign fans’ love for their favourite games did not wane during the months-long pause, and instead may have grown through the age-old adage of absence making the heart grow fonder. One has to count the psychological impact this has had not only on sports fans, but the world in general. Most leagues had their issues and controversies in getting going, the NBA relaunching inside its Orlando Disney World bubble amid a wave of cases in the state of Florida, while players sneaked out to strip clubs, of all places. Despite everything, ‘Chinese dream’ of next Yao Ming lives on in the West The Miami Marlins of the MLB are still dealing with a rash of outbreaks, and the UFC, the first to return, had to pull multiple fighters from cards due to positive Covid-19 tests. No matter, leagues decided not to axe their restarts, and good on them. We need a shot of good news this year like we need a coronavirus vaccine. Watching the NHL over the weekend, screaming at the television, yelling at the referees’ calls, gleefully texting hockey buddies with game banter, trash talk and meme sharing galore felt so good. Like a long-lost friend had returned and we were happily catching up over drinks. Multiple studies done across the UK and other countries are starting to show the mental health impact of this pandemic. Not only are citizens worried about contracting the virus, but the lockdown and restrictions imposed are making people depressed and anxious as they have been unapologetically ripped from their regular day-to-day lives. In Hong Kong, the virus has ravaged the city’s psyche since early February when the first death was reported. Six months later we find ourselves still in the thick of this battle with Covid-19, trying our best while also realising there is a mental and financial toll we are paying. How the rumblings of raging hormones could burst NBA bubble Sport has nothing to do with this. The games we love to watch have not changed, minus fans and maybe some awkward social distancing celebrations. But their essence remains intact, they allow us to turn our lives off for hours each day and tune into something that now seems otherworldly. Philosophically, this is a big win for the collective psyche of the planet. There is a case to be made that the majority would call themselves sports fans. Football itself boasts an approximate 3.5 billion fans, which is closing in on half the global population. The world now holds its breath for a vaccine, an end to all this chaos. We find ourselves huddled together emotionally, leaning on friends and family to weather this storm, while physically distanced, locked down and static most of the day. It has been a big ask from a planet built on travel, freedom of movement, nomadism and whimsical trips to other countries, and to the corner store for some potato chips. That’s all changed in 2020, as we endure a virus for the ages. But take this win, sport is back, and let us claim some small victories on the eventual road to success. Humanity’s resiliency has been tested, but like a great speech from a coach before a big game: we will overcome this challenge, together as a team.